J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise - You Deserve It (2017)

J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise
you_deserve_it_j.j._hairston_youthful_praise.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise - You Deserve It

The staying power for gospel artists who choose to stay true to their artistic purpose within a constantly changing music industry is commendable in itself.  And this longevity transforms into a strong testimony for select mass choirs led by highly prolific worship leaders -- leaders who deliver a scriptural message with their own unique perspective while still honoring the foundation of gospel music.   Legendary contemporary choir visionaries since the eighties such as Hezekiah Walker & L.F.C., John P. Kee & New Life and Richard Smallwood & Vision (and The Richard Smallwood Singers) have established their own musical identity through successful long running ministries that have produced many songs to share with other praise and worship leaders.   

J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise - You Deserve It

The staying power for gospel artists who choose to stay true to their artistic purpose within a constantly changing music industry is commendable in itself.  And this longevity transforms into a strong testimony for select mass choirs led by highly prolific worship leaders -- leaders who deliver a scriptural message with their own unique perspective while still honoring the foundation of gospel music.   Legendary contemporary choir visionaries since the eighties such as Hezekiah Walker & L.F.C., John P. Kee & New Life and Richard Smallwood & Vision (and The Richard Smallwood Singers) have established their own musical identity through successful long running ministries that have produced many songs to share with other praise and worship leaders.   

Add J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise to this elite list as their majestic praises have garnered respect among their peers, as well as an armful of prolific hits that are church choir friendly, as they now celebrate the 15th anniversary of their debut project, Awesome God. Youthful Praise was birthed at Turner's Faith Temple in Bridgeport, Connecticut as Teens for TFT, under the tutelage of Shawn Brown and Hairston, who worked with another revered choir director, James Hall.  Behind Hairston’s fervent praise and worship presence and a rich songwriting history, Youthful Praise continues as a strong force in gospel music, earning several Stellar and Soul Train nominations in the process.

You Deserve It, recorded at Hairston’s current home church, City of Praise Family Ministries in Landover, Maryland, showcases a tour of Youthful Praise’s hit catalog, along with new material that mostly reflects their impressive musicality.  The title track, first released last spring, immediately impacts the worship zone, thanks to soloist Cortez Vaughn and Y.P’s appealing harmonies.  Singer/songwriter Travis Greene contributes "We Serve," dropping a soothing neo-soul approach with Hairston's powerful breaks.  However, another new piece, “No Reason to Fear,” drowns in a techno arrangement that clouds Y.P’s already solid choral abilities. But the major focus for You Deserve It belongs to Y.P’s achievements and their magnetic choral personality, whether in a traditional or contemporary setting.

Along with a few guest appearances, Hairston heavily relies on the members of Y.P for the solo and lead voices.  On the traditional side for You Deserve It, “Blood Still Works” pushes the tempo non-stop with the clever inclusion of “Nothing But The Blood” and a dynamic relationship between the choir and a confident band directed by Brandon Maclin.  “Awesome God” (written by Brown) slows the pace, centering on Y.P.’s jazz styled harmonies and wrapped up by Juanita Contee’s brief, yet pure solo. Their perspective on the Twila Paris’ worship classic, “He is Exalted,” flows reasonably well thanks to co-lead vocalist Brittney Wright, but the pairing of Hairston’s “Give You Praise” loses some steam because of the latter piece’s repetitive nature.

Of course, Y.P. is quite comfortable in it contemporary choral skin as evidenced by the high level of gospel radio play.  “Resting on His Promises,” featuring Marc Britt, and “Deliver” combine for old school funk grooves.  And Greg Kirkland shares the lead duties for “After This”:  “There will be a praise/There will be a joy…/There will be a glory after this.”   David McClure’s rich tenor heads up Y.P’s signature piece co-written by Hairston, “Incredible God,” driven by a waltz tempo.  “Lord You’re Mighty” balances explosive call and response between the choir sections and Leah Leach’s riveting charge before concluding with a near hush. 

It’s been a decade and a half of gospel leadership and songwriting excellence for J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise. And, for the most part, You Deserve It provides a worthy celebration of the act’s body of work, work that deservedly and permanently belongs alongside the songs of the Y.P.’s most revered contemporary choir counterparts.  Recommended.

By Peggy Oliver

 
Featured Album - Will Downing - "Romantique, Part 1"
Featured Album - The Soul Rebels - "Poetry In Motion"
Album of the Month - Plunky & Oneness - "Afroclectic"
Choice Cut - Chris Jasper - "For The Love of You"

Leave a comment!