Monday, April 10, 2006

Review: Darrel Petties & Strength In Praise: Count It All Joy

Darrel Petties & Strength In Praise
Count It All Joy (EMI)
Released April 2006
3.5 out of 5 stars
reviewed by LaTonya Taylor

Sounds like … traditional, choir-based gospel with contemporary influences for fans of Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir, or Bishop Eddie Long and the Total Praise Choir.

At a glance … this well-executed debut is a serviceable homage to the mass-choir tradition, but lacks the musical or lyrical surprises of a standout album.

Discovered by Smokie Norful, Darrel Petties and Strength in Praise features a tight band and a well-crafted sound, with several appreciable moments reminiscent of the '80s-era mass choir. Count It All Joy, their debut album, is firmly rooted in traditional themes. The 21-year-old Petties' voice has a full, occasionally Cleveland-esque throatiness and authority that sound like they could belong to someone decades older.

The album is a pleasant listen, especially the title track, the rolling, rural-bluesy "Thank You Jesus," the energetic "Yes Lord," and Petties' updated arrangement of "Glory Hallelujah." "I'm On My Way" is solidly old school, combining a rural quartet feel with a classic mass choir sound, and "Surely He Knows" and "Mighty God" feature exceptional leads by Nikki Ross-Turnley and Angela Holmes, respectively.

Petties and Strength In Praise are to be applauded for smoothly carrying on the mass choir tradition, which seems to have been supplanted by an industry more interested in smaller ensembles and individual stars. They've got a clean, polished sound. But there are just no surprises here, lyrically or musically. There's nothing wrong with the album, but it would be cool to hear more that stands out as beyond right.

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