The story of the Gospel Group Half Mile home begins in churches in Northeast Ohio, takes a detour onto the R&B road before returning to the straight and narrow road a half-mile outside of the city of Akron. Group members Terence and Todd Burton from Akron and Youngstown’s Darryl Brownlee all came from musical families with roots in the church. The three young men also grew up in a state known for producing great R&B, soul and funk performers.
The trio united in hopes of becoming the next great R&B group from the Buckeye state. Their talent earned them attention from record labels, A-list producers and the likes of Anita Baker and Gerald Levert. Their success also exposed the three men to the shadier aspects of the music business, as well as elements of the R&B lifestyle that were at odds with their church upbringing, So they decided to walk away from their dreams of becoming R&B stars and shift their focus toward using their musical gifts as a ministry.
The fact that the Burton brothers and Brownlee returned to their gospel roots does not mean that they had forsaken the lessons they learned in the R&B world. The three artists use their experiences as church based musicians who also spent time in the R&B world to good effect on their new record Church Muzik & Inspiration.
The trio showcase their gospel based and contemporary R&B chops throughout Church Muzik. Tunes such as “Call Him Up” and “Won’t Let Him Go” find the group working in the gospel quartet idiom. Half Mile Home repurposes Billy Preston’s “Nothing From Nothing” on “So Good,” a track that reminds us that notes that earned Preston fame as the fifth Beatle and as a solo artist were first used to encourage worshippers to praise the Lord. Preston’s brand of soul contained a strong element of the gospel he played in church. Likewise, Half Mile Home’s brand of praise music is greatly indebted to the hip-hop influenced production techniques they perfected from the New Jack Swing days through the new millennium. Tracks like up-tempo “Super Jesus,” in which the group reminds listeners that Christ is a real life superhero, work both as choir pieces and as praise and worship songs. Meanwhile, “Testimony,” with its booming bass, is a cut that will fall easy on young ears.
Half Mile Home deploys all of the musical techniques they have learned in the church choir stands and secular band stands. Listeners will hear everything from auto tune to blues tinged arrangements to classic vocal harmonies on Church Muzik & Inspiration. The one thing that connects both the ultra modern and the retro classic are full-throated declarations of the Christian message. That ought to be enough to unite advocates of that old time religion and the new schoolers. Recommended
By Howard Dukes