Northernblues Gospel Allstars

Saved!

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Gospel, blues, jazz, R&B -- all are kin on music's family tree, descended from spirituals sung by slaves on the plantations. So it makes sense that producer Frazier Mohawk and Canadian blues label NorthernBlues would tie gospel and blues together again. Saved! is the result of pairing American and Canadian gospel artists in a jam session of religious music. But instead of a rousing blues gospel super album, Saved! is a hit-or-miss survey of gospel styles. The best songs tap into traditional gospel and blues styles. The NorthernBlues Gospel Allstars choir sounds full and soulful on a cappella versions of standards like "Down By the Riverside" and performs a haunting version of "We Shall Overcome." Danny Brooks lays down some mean acoustic guitar and harmonica on "Righteous Highway," mixing down-and-dirty blues with lyrics directing listeners to the "right side of the blues," as he puts it. But the group's attempts at CCM bring this album down to earth in a hurry. Trite lyrics like "Jesus is always waiting on the main line," are backed up by tinny-sounding keyboards on "24/7/365," a vain attempt at turning a tired catch phrase into a Christian pop hook. John Finley's slightly off-key vocals and piano ballad "The Promise" fall flat as well. While a modern piece like the title track, "Saved," with its Al Green-inspired vocals, avoids CCM pitfalls, this album would have been much better if it stayed in gospel's traditional roots -- the place where blues and gospel have much in common.

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