Renee Spearman - Whoa To WOW! (2012)

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    Renee Spearman is an artist who proves demographics do not necessarily equate to destiny. It would be easy to assume that Spearman, like many of her Generation X cohorts, would be a purveyor of the type of gospel music that fuses religious and inspirational themes with contemporary R&B and hip-hop production techniques. And Spearman does have a history of making songs that fuse the gospel message with modern sounds. However, Spearman will likely never be criticized for making music that forces her listeners to guess whether they are listening to a gospel song.

    Spearman’s best work from her Stellar Award nominated album He Changed Me were the high-spirited title and the worship ballad “You Could Have Chose Someone Else.” Both tracks featured Spearman performing live with a choir providing backing vocals. Spearman largely sticks to that formula on her latest live album, Whoa to WOW!, which will be released in late September.

    The title track pairs Spearman with vocalist D.J. Rogers, who is best known for the 1975 song “Say You Love Me.” It’s definitely nice to hear Rogers’ tenor sounding as strong as it did so many years ago. “Whoa to Wow” is a song that addresses the miraculous manner in which God transforms trouble into triumph. The number’s theme of the ability of God’s faithfulness to change things serves as the perfect vehicle for Rogers’ return to the limelight.

    Spearman pairs with Beverly Crawford on “Another Way,” a cut that reminds listeners of the shared history between gospel and the blues. The duets with Crawford and Rogers reveal Spearman’s love and respect for classic gospel. She clearly enjoys performing with these two legendary artists and appears to have no problem giving them free reign to showcase their strong, distinct and passionate vocals. Spearman youthful sounding voice serves as an excellent  counterpoint to soul legend Rogers and gospel legend Crawford.

    The presence of Crawford and Rogers make  “Whoa to Wow” and “Another Way” the album’s two strongest cuts, but there are several other strong songs. Spearman showcases her ability as a writer on the contemporary Christian influenced “Nothing Without You,” while the high energy “Breakthrough” is a track that has potential to enter the rotation of church choirs around the country.

    Plenty of gospel artists embrace being identified as cutting edge as they look to reach younger demographics and unchurched masses who spend their days listening to R&B and hip-hop. Whoa to WOW! will mark Spearman as more of a traditionalist. That means that the songs on Whoa to WOW! probably won’t be heard on the radio during weekday drive time. However, there are plenty of gospel music fans who believe the current trends in gospel music move to far into secularism, and those fans will find a lot to like about Spearman’s latest effort. Recommended.

    By Howard Dukes