Thursday, February 12, 2015

Gospel Explosion – Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, Lanham, MD

Here's another contribution by Juke Blues writer Seamus McGarvey with a review of what sounds like a great gospel show in Maryland.
The most recent gospel quartet promotion at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church by Rosetta Thompson, wife of Sensational Nightingales singer-bassist Horace Thompson, featured a bumper package of performers. 
There were a number of excellent support acts including Pastor James Hardy with his Sam Cooke-styled lead on 'Stand By Me' and the beautiful 'He's Always There'. 
Nate and The New Generation hit a fine opening pace on 'Keep On Praising Him' which segued into a 'Holy Ghost'-themed workout, followed by the slower-stepping 'I Am Redeemed' and the driving closer 'Ask Him' with Nate's strong lead really grabbing the congregation.

I was highly impressed by The Southern Gospel Singers' set including the easy-stepping 'I Know What Prayer Can Do' with its tight harmonies, and manager Cle Pointer's grandson and bass-player Jeffrey who came out front for the deeply soulful 'At Calvary Jesus Gave Up His Life'. The closing 'Who'll Be A Witness Before My God' moved the congregation and drew some wild stepping from Jeffrey to end the set on a high.
Little Sammy and The New Flying Clouds from Philadelphia hit the 'spot' and tore the place up with the slow-stepping 'There's Not A Friend Like The Lord', 'I Got A Victory' and the driving 'No Time To Lose' with some great stepping and call-and-response vocals from Sammy and Bobby Walker. 
Ed Hines, promoter and publicist for The Temptations and The Violinaires, introduced Temptations' bass singer Joe Herndon before The Violinaires' Dwight 'Tito' Arthur led the quartet into their opening 'Children Are You Ready', moving on into the stepping 'I'm Going To Serve The Lord', typified by fine harmonies and high-flying backing vocals. Tito introduced a 'golden oldie' in the shape of the soulful 'Three Pictures Of The Lord'. Amongst many highlights, 'Dr. Jesus' featured a wonderful call-and-response workout from Tito and Lil' Sonny, making for an exciting set from a great quartet.
The Sensational Nightingales gave us 'Jo Jo' Wallace's 'What A Friend We Have In Jesus', plus some fine preaching, Larry Moore's mid-tempo, country feel of 'Something Beautiful', Horace Thompson's 'At The Meeting' with its country-blues overtones, before Larry slowed the pace for 'Standing On The Promise' which on this occasion developed into a highly emotional performance with a fine extended piece of testifying, and an exciting finish.
The Pilgrim Jubilee Singers are one of the scene's legendary quartets, fronted by brothers Clay and Cleave Graham, with veteran guitarist Bobby McDougle. Despite their many years on the road, they just get better and better and, if anything, more exciting in their own unique way. They opened with a mid-tempo 'Let's Praise The Lord' led by Clay before Cleave launched into the easier paced  'Holding On', featuring his soulfully expressive lead, still with a real edge to his voice. Clay had had some health problems and bore witness to the fact with 'God's Been Good To Me', his testifying raising the congregation's spirits for 'I'm So Glad Trouble Don't Last Always'. 'Don't Let Him Down'  featured the two brothers plus Clay's son Kevin out front for a great three-handed workout which really got the church 'up' before Kevin segued into an emotional encore. A great quartet, and a wonderfully exciting set.
Younger quartet The Soul Messengerz opened with an Impressions-style high-flying vocal feel on the mid-paced 'Take It Easy'. Lead DeCarlo Coley, a Baptist preacher, spoke movingly and  in a restrained manner about recent 'senseless killings',  leading into the testifying yet bluesy feel of 'Keep Your Arms Around Me'. His emotional introduction to 'Let Me Lean On You', got the pace going again and the strong rhythm section helped make the set work with DeCarlo demonstrating a great vocal edge and range. One of the best sets I'd seen from them – excellent!
It was also great to see The Swanee Quintet again, with longtime frontman Percy Griffin leading on 'A Man Called Jesus' for an easy-paced opener before the slow-stepping 'Meeting Tonight'. With an exhortation of 'we're going back to Georgia' it was onto 'Sit Down Servant' and a great version of 'Stumble And Fall' with the lead shared between Percy, Eddie McCoy and Koby Weaver for some tastefully  interwoven vocals. Percy's thoughtfully moving 'Prayer Changes Things' led into the hand-clapping 'Dr. Jesus' with Eddie and Koby going through some wild steps. A soulful and highly meaningful 'Georgia On My Mind' from Percy brought it all home.
The Canton Spirituals ' lead Harvey Watkins opened their set with a briskly paced 'Searching' before second tenor Keenan Nichols, now with The Cantons for about a year,  hit a more medium pace on Harvey's own 'It's In My Heart'. Harvey played more of a role throughout than of late, thanks to his voice remaining stable, enabling him to sing numbers like the mid-tempo 'Clean Up' before Keenan came back with 'Morning Dove'. Harvey spoke quite emotionally about the ups and downs of his life, said he'd a lot to be grateful for including thanks to promoter Rosetta for her help, and used humour effectively to get his thoughts across (e.g. talking about taking a drink of brandy at a party in his youth, he said, 'I've  got no Hennessy for you but I've got Jesus', which won both applause and laughter from the congregation). He brought the set to an exciting climax with the hypnotically stepping 'Glad I've Got Jesus'.
The Mighty Clouds Of Joy with legendary lead Joe Ligon (pictured below) closed the program with Joe still in good voice and able to stretch vocally and scream on numbers like 'I've Been In the Storm Too Long', a slow-stepper featuring strong, vibrant harmonies behind Joe's lead. Although the set was plagued by a number of sound problems (which led Joe to joke, 'I was just about to get hold of my hammer!'), they did manage to please the congregation with their repertoire, right down to the closing 'Heavy Load', a wonderfully stomping piece of gospel history. Joe interacted well with congregation, conversing with them, encouraging them and getting them up around the stage, with an extended 'Heavy Load' workout bringing the day to a great conclusion. Keep an eye out for a new set of 2015 programs in April and beyond.

 (Seamus McGarvey, 'Juke Blues' magazine, with thanks to Rosetta and Horace Thompson)


At 9:13 am , Blogger Jacob Shamon said...

Nice Information

gospel explosion


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