Sean C. Johnson - Simply a Vessel, Vol. 3: Surrender All (2012)

Sean C. Johnson
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Since Sean C. Johnson entered the independent music scene in 2006 with his Simply a Vessel series, he has continued to provide a refreshing perspective to the gospel neo-soul market. Though this genre has been making waves for some time thanks to vocalists like Lisa McClendon and Adrianne Archie, Johnson adds another dimension with smooth, ambitious soundtracks blending gospel quartet, hip-hop and seventies soul. His signature sound may be a far cry from traditional church choir praise and other forms of popular gospel styles. Yet Johnson’s Biblical insights are clearly fundamental. Since he picked up a microphone, Johnson’s sole purpose was to share his gift with the body of Christ; from his early days of singing in the choir to his development as an artist willing to take risks for an important cause.

Since Sean C. Johnson entered the independent music scene in 2006 with his Simply a Vessel series, he has continued to provide a refreshing perspective to the gospel neo-soul market. Though this genre has been making waves for some time thanks to vocalists like Lisa McClendon and Adrianne Archie, Johnson adds another dimension with smooth, ambitious soundtracks blending gospel quartet, hip-hop and seventies soul. His signature sound may be a far cry from traditional church choir praise and other forms of popular gospel styles. Yet Johnson’s Biblical insights are clearly fundamental. Since he picked up a microphone, Johnson’s sole purpose was to share his gift with the body of Christ; from his early days of singing in the choir to his development as an artist willing to take risks for an important cause. His primary musical heroes reflect a wide range of tastes: quartet legends, The Dixie Hummingbirds; contemporary gospel pioneers, John P. Kee & The New Life Community Choir; and progressive ensemble, Mali Music.

Johnson’s lyrical thoughts behind Simply a Vessel and Simply a Vessel: Volume 2—Faithful sketches lessons learned from his walk with God. For Simply a Vessel: Vol. 3—Surrender All, the songs reflect a period in Johnson’s life where he strongly felt convicted to surrender more of himself to increase his faith. The riveting orchestrations effortlessly mesh sweet soul, pulsating hip-hop beats and full, stylish harmonies. “Gonna Be” comes out of the opening gate as Johnson, Cam, Zack Gaddis and Dre Murray breaks down how to live by and speak the truth without living in the in-between.  A mini-sermon about Godly repentance drives home the essential point on the ‘70s soul decorated “Still Breathing”: “There’s a chance I’ll still get this right.”  The new jack swing-driven “Pass Me Not” yearns for that relationship with God: “I’m just trying to get back to the place where I heed your voice and weed out all the distractions.”  “Dear Me (Letter to Self)” is Johnson’s cry for the inner lies to leave him alone; all dripping with a Portishead-like ambience. Johnson goes behind the street preaching pulpit on “Amen,” instructing those spiritual soldiers to “give it to them anyway in season and out of season.” Though the musical mood is warm, “Surrender All” illustrates the intense battlefield of fighting temptations: “I still don’t understand why I choose to run back to things that try to hold me and never let go.”

The third installment of Simply a Vessel, just like its predecessors, is another well-conceived, written and performed neo-soul gospel gem. Considering the independent music achievements this series has generated, it will not be surprising if Johnson extends his “Simply a Vessel” ministry a little while longer.

Other Notable Tracks:  “MLMX,” “Sweeter,” and “Father I.”

Vocals:  3.0 stars
Raps:  3.0 stars
Music:  3.0 stars
Lyrics:  3.5 stars
Production:  3.5 stars
SoulTracks Call:  Highly Recommended

By Peggy Oliver

 
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