Soulful singer continues her trek into traditional gospel’s past while still missing the mark in finding her own originalness
Certainly it should make a gospel singer feel extra proud to claim their career associations with the brute muscular mechanics of gospel giant James Cleveland. For Ami Rushes, a white woman with much love for black gospel, it might sound more like an awkward reality but it’s one that she has worn since bursting out of the indie jungle a few years back. All three of her past productions have been assembled by gospel songwriter/artist Kurt Carr, whom also shares in Rushes’ upbringing with the King. She returns to that familiar coda on Testify. Her voice, possessing the raspy sweetness of Dorinda Clark-Cole and the quirky emotions of Martha Munizzi, are snugged up around big and beefy gospel choir harmonies from some of Kurt Carr’s singers and an infectious live-oriented band sporting such names as keyboard wiz Michael Bereal, drummer Terry Baker and string magician Lloyd Barry.
Towards the front of the disc, a heavy list of uptempo contemporary to fast-paced churchy tracks are heard. “It’s Good to Give Thanks,” taken from a former West Angeles COGIC Saints In Praise album, is sweetly resurrected, although proverbially stretched without a hesitation or fear by Carr’s arranging and lyrical improvs. “There Is Nothing Too Hard for God,” a James Cleveland selection taken from the classic 1979 LP It’s a New Day, gets a speedier adaption and a few unnecessary theatrics. Kurt Carr, pretensious and possibly awry of contributing any of his new material, makes a wise choice in reviving “Determination.” The song has the muster of Dorinda Clark-Cole’s “Take It Back” and it allows Rushes to show she’s able to rock a heavy Sunday morning number. The same energies occupy “Didn’t It Rain” and “I Can Go to the Rock.” The tempos on Testify isn’t all vibrant and rapturous. She churns out a warm encourager in “You Can Make It” and a worshipful “No Other Name But Jesus.” Although more strong ballads or even a few slow pop-orchestrated selections would have helped balanced out this offering, Rushes remains confident in her old school camp meeting song list and stays true to what her fans expect from her.
Probably the biggest hurdle Rushes run across from time to time with each one of her releases is her heavy burden of reviving too many oldies from gospel’s catalog. It becomes relegated to a memory-lane effort. And this is what it is: unapologetic recounts of gospel greats like Timothy Wright (“Testify,” “Jesus, Jesus Jesus”), Andrae Crouch (“Always Remember”), Mahalia Jackson (“Didn’t It Rain”) and James Cleveland. But Rushes needs to start pushing the artistic button and find her own set of songs for fans to remember her by. Otherwise, the comparison to the originals will remain vigorous amongst gospel revelers.
J MATTHEW COBB
- Release Date: 29 Jun 2010
- Label: Ami Rushes
- Producers: Kurt Carr
- Track Favs: You Can Make It, Determination, It’s Good to Give Thanks