As rabid music fans, industry insiders, and artists are more than aware of by now, award shows have saturated the television airwaves and local communities in bigger doses. In the North American gospel industry, the U.S. boasts the Stellar Awards, The Dove Awards, and the choir competition, How Sweet the Sound. Canada’s gospel music achievements are mostly concentrated at the Stellar’s equivalent, the Covenant Awards. Unfortunately, the latter’s talent pool rarely translates to major gospel music recognition compared to their neighbors from the south. Yet, with the continuing onslaught of award shows, there is almost a sure avenue to honor an artists’ body of work within due time. In 2013, it was Canada’s turn to present the first annual Glass Awards that focused on the country’s finest gospel messengers, including Group/Duo nominee, Brian Hamilton & Divine Worship.
This Toronto, Ontario-based praise and worship ensemble is relatively young in performance years, but their hunger for Jesus amplifies their work ethic and contagious energy. Founded in 2006, Divine Worship was birthed from Hamilton’s ministry reputation that drew an anointed support system of vocalists and musicians. Hamilton cites fellow Toronto ministers Sharon Riley & The Faith Chorale & TMC as firm influences along with Fred Hammond & RFC and J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise, which fuel his “Kingdom Music.” After a ‘promo’ CD in 2008, Sunday Morning, the 2011 follow-up, I Am a Christian, and sharing the stage with Kim Burrell and Tye Tribbett, Hamilton & DW are further settled into their ministry niche. Their latest self-released, Chosen, is their biggest pride and joy to-date, motivated by the verse from 1 Peter about becoming a royal priesthood.
Unlike many recent gospel releases, Chosen totally relies on DW’s in-house talent without ‘guest’ appearances, which works favorably on most counts. Where the ensemble’s vocal gifts come alive are when the praises are fully turned up. Accordingly, “Turn Up the Praises” fully soaks in that Fred Hammond-esque call and response. Vocal director Owen ‘Osound’ Lee is another solid attraction on Chosen. His contagiously soulful leads the pop/rock driven, “Happy,” going toe-to-toe with Hamilton’s captivating praise leads and blazing guitar fills from Elmer Ferrer, and a lively song tailor made for contemporary gospel radio, “You’re Amazing.” “Chosen Generation” features a welcome arrangement anchored by a mild Caribbean flavored chorus with sweet funk guitar linings.
Undoubtedly, DW is extremely locked and loaded when the musical pace exhilarates. Though somehow, during most of the slower pieces, their charisma is a bit quenched. Yet, the winning lead vocalists carry the load in re-strengthening the worship atmosphere. Simone Minott’s alto seamlessly flows from reverence to God to affirmation of faith on her composition, “Reveal.” The same applies for the Irish-splashed, “I Am Determined,” as Kiara Stewart’s shear vocal confidence explodes with the hook, “I will put my trust in you.” Despite Hamilton’s best efforts to rescue the ill-advised neo-soul makeover of “I Need Thee,” this classic hymn ends up as a sour note.
Despite some hiccups, Hamilton & DW handle their business throughout Chosen in a very satisfactory manner. Given a little vocal seasoning, Hamilton and DW could represent North America on a bigger gospel music stage and possibly hold it down for a major award showcase more sooner than later. Recommended.
By Peggy Oliver