Songstress Lizz Wright who captivated audiences with SALT continues to breathe life into her latest work, FELLOWSHIP (Verve). This record features several traditional songs that Wright grew up with in church, “Amazing Grace,” “Sweeping Through the City,” and a gospel medleys “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “Power Lord.”
Growing up in a Georgia Pentecostal church, Wright wasn’t allowed to listen to popular music. Wright, a gorgeously passionate singer, decided to put a secular spin on the spiritual and has achieved much success. FELLOWSHIP, produced by Craig Street, is Wright’s fourth album release on Verve – Salt (2003), Dreaming Wide Awake (2005) and The Orchard (2008). Not bad, considering she is only 30.
But, Fellowship is not all gospel. It contains a lot of interesting folk music, whereby voices and sounds add texture. It features the grace and sensitivity from a collaboration of musical Amazons: Toshi Reagon, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Meshell N’degeocello, and Angelique Kidjo.
The jazz/gospel singer brings forth a powerhouse of vocal and instrumental jams on songs like Shirley Caesar’s “Sweeping Through the City” and Jimi Hendrix’s “In From The Storm.”
Toshi Reagon provides an array of striking guitar solos on “In From The Storm.” Believe it or not, the lagniappe on this piece is the simplicity — the sanctified and intelligent hand clapping, whose power is not to be underestimated. These types of rhythms add excitement to piece.
On “Fellowship,” a cover of a song from Meshell Ndegeocello’s Comfort Woman, Wright asks a thought-provoking question to religious hypocrites.
Would you walk/a righteous path/without the promise/of heaven,/paradise/streets paved in gold?/would you slay/your sister,/your brother man/for another man’s greed?/’cause if you believe that your god/is better than another man/how we gonna end/all your suffering?/’cause if you believe that your god/is better than another woman/how we gonna end/all your suffering and strife? /”If you believe your God is better than another man/How we gonna end all of your suffering?”
She sings with emotion, “Let the faith guide me.”
Wright is right on track. Her interpretations are soulful, sweet and deeply grounded in the rich traditions of African American gospel music. Fellowship is a record of new beginnings and yeah, it’s a work of art.