To guide your summer getaway book selections, try this formula: E=FB²
Michael & Becci Ball
Michael and Becci Ball strike a balance of beauty and earthy simplicity, with silver-flecked harmonies and a maturity born of raising four children (and a hamster). Shades of pop bring accent and depth to a beguiling, Michael Card–like gentleness—and do so without breaking the fragile thread of worship. In the song “In Every Season,” bass and drums enter as smooth as a sigh to buoy the clear waters of Michael’s voice as he learns “to know Your voice that speaks peace to me / … You are good in every season.”
Release the Sound
Devante Lamont & Renewed
Lamont doesn’t just flirt with repetition. He basks in it, constructing entire songs largely from a single sentence such as, “When Jesus is here, everything changes.” But simple truth can be potent when given space to breathe and plied with jazz stylings and gospel-soaked singing. One soulful interlude refreshingly roots true change not in outward circumstances but inward ones: “My soul has got to change, / my desires, they got to change.” On several songs (including the old-fashioned jubilee jam “The Lord Is Great”), the bass player’s fingers fly up and down the fretboard as if powered by rocket fuel.
Donald Lawrence & the Tri-City Singers
Lawrence commands his gospel choir like a boss, drawing out a dynamic range the envy of any orchestra and effortlessly fusing styles and eras. After “He Heard My Cry” begins on a simple foundation of bluesy moaning and foot-stomping goodness, Sir the Baptist raps with Auto-Tuned swagger and eccentric (and exciting) vocal leaps. Lawrence’s use of Old Testament imagery, though, is a little more uneven. Certain songs emphasize healing and prosperity much more than the perseverance that arises from long-term trials.
Working on a Building: Hymns & Gospel Classics
The Singing Contractors
With beards straight out of Duck Dynasty and broad smiles to match, Josh Arnett and Aaron Gray always looked the part of what they were: hard-working construction subcontractors. What they didn’t look the part of were trained singers with precision control, until a YouTube video showed them on a work site singing “How Great Thou Art” in stunning harmony. The video went viral and “The Singing Contractors” were born. The steady hands of the Gaithers are behind this Southern gospel project, which means this building is bound to attract admirers from miles around.
In his new album Son, K-Ross examines his spiritual journey with a dry sense of humor and an intriguing mix of Drake-inspired hip-hop, R&B, rock, and jazz. Sometimes the genres are smushed together uneasily. At other times they dance together fluidly, as if in quantum entanglement.
Couched in a catchy acoustic pop-blues groove, “Sorry for Me” pokes fun at the current Christian obsession for “authenticity” as manifested by a preoccupation with criticizing God and feeling sorry for yourself. The song begins by plaintively asking, “Why, oh why God, don’t you answer my prayers?” The complaint turns on its head when God enters, as in the book of Job, to point out, “I came and saved you from depression and you still remain faithless.” Then God ironically mentions that, despite myriad interventions ignored and His ultimate sacrifice spurned, “No one is sorry for me.” —J.K.