Myron Butler & Levi


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It was released quietly and sold adequately, but Myron Butler & Levi's debut, Set Me Free, was never a smash in the strictest sense of the term. What the album did reveal, though, was a promising aggregate that wasn't afraid to venture outside the conventions of contemporary gospel, an ability that the gospel community recognized by granting it four Stellar Awards -- gospel's version of the Grammy. The group's second album, Stronger, is even more ambitious, mixing and matching top-notch contemporary gospel and classic choral elements with sensibilities that span inspirational gospel-pop ("Unrestrained"), urban funk ("Jesus Saves"), and even hard rock-gospel ("I Live"). Myron Butler is the quintessential frontman, taking the lead and guiding his skilled choristers with the zeal and poise of a young Kirk Franklin. Butler is a force in his own right, not only because he's a tremendous vocalist and a well-rounded producer, but also because he seems keen on stepping beyond the confines of contemporary gospel into sounds the genre often dares not touch, like pop-worship ("Above All") and even acoustic pop ("More Than You'll Ever Know"), while still keeping his feet firmly planted in his main style of choice. If Butler keeps up this pace, one day he might even reach Franklin-like status -- not a far-fetched prospect, given the two artists' previous working relationship in God's Property, 1NC, and Franklin's own solo efforts. Here's hoping the gospel crowd -- not generally known for being too fond of left-field surprises -- can come along for the ride.

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