Oakland, California-born singer Sunny Hawkins was performing almost from the time she could work, beginning at age 2 at Love Center Ministries in Oakland, California with her godparents, gospel legends Walter and Tramaine Hawkins. She continued performing through her teen years, ultimately singing around the country in various venues. As a young adult, she landed a lead role in the Broadway musical Rent with *NSYNC's Joey Fatone, and backing vocal gigs with Chaka Khan, Deborah Cox, Ray Charles, Patti LaBelle and Luther Vandross. She also developed strong songwriting skills, penning Aretha Franklin's 2003 hit "The Only Thing Missin," and "Good Lovin" from Patti LaBelle's 2004 album, Timeless Journey. She married hot young producer/writer/musical director Jamie Hawkins (Jodeci, MC Hammer, Donnell Jones, Boyz II Men, Lauren Hill), who was also Walter and Tramaine's son.
Jamie and Sunny began collaborating musically, and in 2004 started working on a joint album, attempting to fashion a modern Gospel album that brought in elements of soul, rock and hip-hop in addition to traditional Gospel sounds. In early 2005 Sunny released the result of their work in the form of her debut album, More of You.
More of You is an ambitious disc that highlights Sunny's bright soprano voice in a number of disparate styles, from the funky rock title cut, to the light disco beat of "Love Me Too," to the more neo-soul feel of many of the album's other cuts. Hawkins' ventures in Deniece Williams-type ballads ("Send Me I'll Go" and "It's Like Air") work exceptionally well, as does the jazzy Latin-tinged "Jesus the Same." The album's biggest surprise is also it's focus song: the power pop ballad "What A Man," a cut clearly aimed at CCM radio and with a resulting sound similar to that of a more pop oriented act, such as Point of Grace.
As a debut vehicle, More of You provides a good landscape for Hawkins' attractive, effective voice and allows her to roam through a broad cross-section of modern sounds and generally good compositions. A solid introduction to a talented vocalist.
By Chris Rizik