Vanessa Bell Armstrong
Vanessa Bell Armstrong
(courtesy of EMI Gospel)
Don't call it a comeback, Vanessa Bell Armstrong has been here for years and today, she returns to the music scene with an undeniable new album that is simply destined to reclaim her position as one of Gospel's foremost female vocalists.
All things seem to be falling in line for Armstrong on this new CD, suitably titled, Walking Miracle. Recently signed to EMI Gospel, a new label for her, Armstrong brings her vast arsenal of talent, anointing and experience to the table.
Featuring a blend of contemporary sensibilities and â€˜Ole school' rips and runs Armstrong's forte cannot be defined as just one thing. "When I started out, I was a contemporary vocalist however the late Thomas Whitfield mixed it up with a traditional feel and since then I never went far from that," Armstrong explained. "I love the contemporary and I love the traditional ... to me the time-honored sounds of Gospel music is our medicine ... it gives us hope ... it encourages, but the contemporary-up tempo stuff is what lifts us up. It all works together." Walking Miracle is a perfect blend of the soul and power of the traditional with the up-tempo and vibrancy of the contemporary. She bridges the gap and has a message for all listeners.
The lead single, "So Good To Me," is exactly the archetypical Vanessa Bell Armstrong sound that we've come to know and love. The song, produced by label mate, Smokie Norful, was borne out of his admiration and grasp of Armstrong's history, depth and value as one of Gospel's purest and strongest female vocalists. "He's the smoke, and I'm the fire," laughed Armstrong. "Smokie knew me so well ... he told me that I was the first gospel artist he was introduced to and he had been listening to me since he was young ... singing my songs in church ... and so for him to know my music and my sound so well it was a perfect match." It is a classically built song of encouragement that has the makings of the huge Gospel hit.
The song verbalizes the theme for Armstrong's recent journey with this project and with her career. "I am ready to tell everyone how good God has been to me ... I want people to watch me as I follow Christ," explained Armstrong. "A lot of people counted me out and convinced me it was over as far as my career was concerned ... But God said not so ... he had me in hibernation and prepared me for this time and revealed Himself in the right time."
Drawing out the notions of faith, encouragement and triumph in Jesus, Armstrong gives plentiful reminders of His greatness. Of the impressive 11 tracks on the album, the most personal and perhaps most heartfelt is "It's Over Now." More than a song, it is an intimate conversation with Armstrong and the Lord where she is requesting a song for her, for her son, for her daughter, even for the world to help heal the collective struggle we all face in our daily lives. Making it personal for herself she openly appeals to the Lord on behalf of her children.
"These are real things that I am going through ... The enemy is after me and going through my children and I am standing in proxy for them." she said. "It's also one of my favorite songs to sing off of this project ... it's just so personal and you can't sing about something you don't know about ... God gave me this song and I
am going to warfare with the enemy and letting them know by faith I know it is over ... the pain, the illness, the heart break ... its over."
Walking Miracle features a first time collaboration with Armstrong and super producer, Rodney Jerkins on the R&B tinged title cut "Walking Miracle." The smooth and sleek track backs Armstrong's clear and catchy vocals. It is a relatable song for everyone that speaks of God's healing power and again talks of her own story. "They were praying for my son (who was recently diagnosed with the debilitating disease MS) one Sunday night and the song just came to me," she said. "He is a walking miracle and I know he's healed and through faith and assurance I am just waiting for the evidence of His promise."
"The song tells of other struggles ... I deal with martial problems in this song which is something that God delivered me from. I can identify with the many battles ... mentally, medically, financially ... everyone is going through something ... But the key is if you are still moving ... going forward that is what the miracle truly is ... Every time you open your eyes that is God."
Freddie Jerkins also provides production on Walking Miracle and offers the upbeat "Till The Victory Is Won" and the urban contemporary ballad "Fall In Love." The latter, a pretty soft ballad, showcases her range and speaks to a feeling we, as believers, have all had at one time or another ... the desire to go back to that precious, special moment when we first fell in love with Jesus. Musically equivalent to R&B and soul counterparts, "Fall In Love" is a love song that exhibits a passion and an eagerness to reclaim that zeal and thirst to be closer to Christ. "I want that fresh anointing," said Armstrong. "Freddie Jerkins did an amazing job and he gave this song that was so beautiful ... I wanted to have that refreshing ... a touch from Jesus to remind me of His amazing love."
Other high points on Walking Miracle include "Seasons" featuring a guest appearance by the phenomenal J. Moss whose vocals are a wonderful compliment to the CD and "Just Hold On" a broadway-esque ballad with the right elements of beauty and encouragement that harkens back to Armstrong's start on Broadway.
Armstrong first appeared on Broadway in 1991 for the production of "Don't Get God Started," which catapulted her to prominence leading to a cameo in Oprah Winfrey's TV special "The Women of Brewster Place," and a gig doing the opening jingle for the hit sitcom "Amen." Both accomplishment and career highlights prove that Armstrong has truly withstood the test of time. Her first release in 1984, "Peace Be Still," has since become a defining song for her, and subsequently she has released a number of memorable releases including "Something Inside So Strong," and "Don't Give Up On Jesus." It is her ability to mix it up that has kept Armstrong relevant in today's field.
Song after song, the album seeks to encourage, inspire and remind us all of God's awesome power. Walking Miracle tells us to hold on, to have faith, to know there is victory, and that simply God has our back. Vanessa Bell Armstrong continues be relevant, giving listeners what they need when they need it.
"When people listen to this album, I want people to know the giver of this wonderful gift is God," Armstrong said. "Its all God ... the versatility I have is because He is a versatile God ... He is not hung up on one way of singing and He has anointed me to reach the masses. I want people to know that there is something better ... the thing that we are all missing in today's world is Jesus ... we have to bring that message to them."