Donnie McClurkin made some of the most memorable and best loved gospel songs of the last 15 years. Tunes such as “Stand” and “We Fall Down” continue to be played in part because of McClurkin’s powerful and passionate vocals and because listeners relate to the themes of spiritual and personal restoration heard in the lyrics. So McClurkin could easily release another album with the focus on his strong vocals and his charismatic persona. However, he instead decided to share the spotlight with some equally powerful voices, and compelling and charismatic personalities on his latest projects, Duets.
The duet is a time honored tradition in the gospel genre, and two singers’ profession their love for Jesus can evoke emotions that are just as powerful as those brought forth on a secular duet. One of my favorites of recent vintage is “Every Prayer,” a track that from Israel Houghton’s 2009 album The Power of One that paired him with Mary Mary. Houghton and Mary Mary’s Erica Campbell are among the artists featured on Duets. Others include Fred Hammond, John P. Kee, Dorinda Clark Cole, Tramaine Hawkins and Tye Tribbett. That’s’ a diverse roster.
One thing that distinguishes Duets is that each song played to the strength of McClurkin’s collaborator. The other is McClurkin’s ability to seamlessly move from “Victorious,” his rock infused contemporary Christian duet with Tribbett, to “Write My Name,” the rollicking, joyous, hand clapping tour-de-force combo with Clark Cole.
“Anytime,” McClurkin’s duet with Kee, is an inspirational ballad that is a great tribute to the parents, teachers, pastors and other mentors who provide love, encouragement and advice. “Encouraged” pairs McClurkin with Justin Savage on a pop influenced tune that finds the two singing of looking to Christ for strength in times of crisis and doubt.
Not every song on Duets is a duet. The percussive “Come as You Are,” a call to lay down all pretenses and be real before the Lord, combines McClurkin with two other vocalists known for their range - Houghton and Hammond, while McClurkin and Campbell join the anthem “I’m Still Here,” an autobiographical number that finds both singers thanking God for giving the strength to preserve through all of their trials.
McClurkin confidently brings together a group of strong vocalists and manages to create an album that works ministry and as art. Fans will grow in faith by hearing these anointed singers tell the story of how God’s grace and mercy sustained them, and fans of good music will enjoy hearing a group of artists operating at the top of their collective games. Strongly Recommended.
By Howard Dukes