Kalani - From My Heart To Yours (2007)

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    The Gospel Music landscape has blown up in the last several years, especially with R&B performers. Those who carved their niche in the R&B market, such as Kenny Lattimore & Chante Moore, Kelly Price, and Shirley Murdock, are now singing the Lord's praises, without mass choir backing and bombastic church service type arrangements. Newer artists such as Lisa McLendon and Sunny Hawkins are following suit, while elevating R&B with elements of hip-hop and contemporary jazz.

    Singer/songwriter Kalani is part of that latter group. The Oakland native dreamed of an R&B career as a little girl. She took her dream seriously, listening to and imitating Angela Bofill, Teena Marie, and the like. When she accepted Christ in her life, her musical career path changed. On her debut, From My Heart To Yours, she stays true to those influences, while balancing heartfelt praise and worship. Kalani's huge vocal presence recalls solid R&B stylists and some current Gospel superstars.

    All ten tracks are riveting, a rarity for an entire album, but the exceptional cuts are "What He Wants," spiced with Mary J. Bilge in-your-face attitude, and "The Only One," slightly reminiscent of a Teena Marie sizzling ballad but with a Mary Mary and Yolanda Adams vocal punch. Coincidentally, Sunny Hawkins joins Kalani as a background vocalist on several tracks. Sunny's husband, Jamie Hawkins, the son of Contemporary Gospel groundbreaker, Walter Hawkins, is one of two producers providing an edgy but polished urban backdrop.

    Judging by this body of work, Kalani has done her homework when it comes to her love of R&B. She also is sincere about her convictions with lyrics based solely on scripture. On both counts, Kalani is another one to pay attention to on the R&B/Gospel tip.

    By Peggy Oliver