VaShawn Mitchell: Triumphant

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Posted September 13, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

vashawnmitchell00On big debut on the EMI label, singer/songwriter resorts to CCM worship while neglecting his spunky contemporary Chicago choir sound

For almost a decade, Vashawn Mitchell has been earning his wings as a satisfying disciple of Donald Lawrence songwriting and as a trusted choirmaster; staging productions for his Chicago origins at Chicago’s Sweet Holy Spirit Church, Lucinda Moore and for himself, not to mention that his songs have been worn on a number of gospel divas like Vanessa Bell Armstrong and Karen Clark-Sheard. The journey itself, initiating on the independent Tyscot label, gave Mitchell some honorary church standards, like the moving “My Worship Is For Real,” “What’s To Come Is Better Than What’s Been” and even a few uptempo rewards. Being in the shadows of Donald Lawrence has paid off for the former Chicago tenant, now making Atlanta his home and now resting on Lawrence’s former stomping ground on the EMI Gospel label. Certainly the label has high hopes for the young talent and probably has intentions to nurture him into gospel royalty.

On his EMI debut Triumphant, Mitchell surrounds himself around familiar names from associated works (Daniel Witherspoon, Rick Robinson) but this time around he’s fallen adrift from his roots, distracted by the new spotlight and heavy on the Contemporary Christian-pop batter. The gripes wouldn’t be overtly heavy if Mitchell had been a fresh act attempting to trollop down the stream of crossover, but Mitchell isn’t a stranger to those that know him. What he has made available for his already-established audience are songs like the traditional power ballad “His Blood Still Works” and ”Can’t Take My Joy Away;” led by guest vocals from Lisa Page Brooks and San Franklin respectively. But for those looking for a big change of pace, something more acoustic and serene, they will probably gravitate easily towards “Nobody Greater” or the pop-esque celebratory motivator “Conqueror.” There’s more confidence boosters in the pack like “Now Be Restored,” “Be Fruitful” and the title track.

It’s possible that Mitchell may have learned a life-changing lesson from Lawrence’s last record, his second solo album (The Law of Confession, Pt. I). The set-up feels the same. There’s no big church choir here and there’s just such an over-abundance of feel-good daily devotions tucked in the mix. His voice, never really amassing strong standout vocal presentations, deserves to fall on lighter fluff, but he struggles to pump the necessary wind into the stretched-out worship songs. And when a good moment bubbles, it falters due to those early expectations. “I Need You” and “Chasing After You,” the latter being an upbeat worship-pop song designed after Israel Houghton’s popular openers, simply lacks the musician engine for rock-pop and is overly saturated in repetition. What’s really missing on Triumphant: that juicy contemporary funk entree screaming for gospel radio’s attention. While aspiring to be like Lawrence or even the next chart buster, Mitchell, while blessed to be in the luckiest position of reaching an even larger audience than before, designs Triumphant into an unfortunate washout of a golden opportunity.

J MATTHEW COBB

HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 11 Aug 2010
  • Label: EMI Gospel
  • Producers:  VaShawn Mitchell, Daniel Witherspoon, Rick Robinson
  • Track Favs: His Blood Still Works, Triumphant, Nobody Greater

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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