She's been one-half of the urban contemporary gospel duo Mary Mary for over a decade and a big sister to Tina all of her life, so the decision to record solo wasn't one that Erica Atkins Campbell took lightly. Performing live shows on her own repping for Mary Mary was one thing, having to step to Tina and add another dilemma to their already-stacked plate of issues was something else (for those who don't watch their reality show, Season Three premiered last month and explores the upheaval Tina experienced after learning of husband Teddy's infidelity). It was likely very hard for Erica to create in the midst of chaos, but those moments of anguish and uncertainty are delved into rather than denied on her satisfying solo debut, Help.
If you download or cop the CD expecting a radical departure from the established Mary Mary sound, you just might be disappointed---Erica and her husband Warryn Campbell II are still collaborating together, and Tina's presence resonates throughout via her background vocals. It's common knowledge that she's a confident and capable vocalist either way, but what might feel different to fans is how personally Erica relates to, and delivers, the content's trials and testimonies: "You Are" is packed with praise, a glib mid-tempo love letter to Jesus about His goodness and grace, and Help's opening track, "The Question," begins plaintively and finishes with a roar, proclaiming raw gratitude for the Lord's selflessness and sacrifice. And with the galvanizing latest single, "Help," featuring a rap cameo by Lecrae and background vocals by Musiq Soulchild and oldest daughter Krista, Erica's pain is palpable as she recounts the familiar struggles she's grappling with as a sister, wife, mother and believer: if you don't feel your eyes watering or a lump in your throat while listening to her, you might need a wellness check, STAT. "I can't make it without you Lord....Somebody's laying in the hospital right now, need you to make it alright/ God I just lost my daddy, yes I need help...."
All of the songs found on Help range from the traditional ("All I Need Is You," "A Little More Jesus)" to secular-sounding: Erica sings of her endless love for God in the 80s-era uptempo, "Nobody Else," offers His healing for the heartbroken in "More Than a Lover," and even pays tribute to her late father, Elder Eddie A. Atkins Jr., in a way that only a daughter could. "If I could just talk to you one more time/ I would tell you I was listening all the time," Erica croons. "Even when I rolled my eyes, hey/ Daddy I knew you were talking right."
Saved without being sanctimonious and heaven-aspsiring while remaining down-to-earth: that's what Mary Mary represents to their fans and it's a path that Erica Campbell continues to travel. "No, Mary Mary is not broken up," she clarified in a recent Billboard interview, "[but] I kind of had to explain to her [Tina] that....you can't tell me 'I'm not working or doing anything' and expect me to just sit and wait until you're ready. ......I love what I do, so I'm just going to keep it moving."
In other words, Tina and Erica are certainly brilliant together, but when it comes to conveying ministry within the music on the solo tip, Ms. Campbell handles the load with passion and purpose. Besides, no matter where you are in your walk with the Lord, it never hurts to receive that much more Help. Highly Recommended.