Ken Whiteley

Gospel Music Makes Me Feel Alright!

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White gospel singers generally fall into two broad categories: those who use the music to shore up traditional Christian values in a wicked world, and those who use the music to encourage progressive social change. (Black gospel singers, somehow, have historically managed to fuse those seemingly irreconcilable approaches.) Canadian singer and songwriter Ken Whiteley falls solidly in the latter camp, and has done so in both solo and group settings since his work in the 1970s with the Original Sloth Band. The performances collected here were recorded in Toronto during a series of workshop-style concerts in 2003, and find Whiteley working with an eclectic group of like-minded musicians including bassist George Koller, guitarist Colin Linden and drummer Bucky Berger, and ten singers. Whiteley's singing is front and center, for better and for worse; his voice is a rather limited instrument, and on a few numbers (notably the excruciating "Travelling On" and "In Your Hands") he is pushing the limits of his range and agility. But he's a wonderful slide guitarist, and the arrangements are mostly excellent; those that involve the most voices and instruments tend to be the most effective. Two of the album's most effective songs, powerful renditions of "Sing With Me" and "I Don't Want to Be Lost," come at the end of the program. Recommended with only slight reservations.

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