Powerful, inspirational, and just downright gifted, Karen Clark-Sheard was already a successful artist as part of the Gospel Hall of Fame group the Clark Sisters when her 1997 solo debut Finally Karen launched her into a whole new stratosphere of popularity. The combination of her energetic voice with R&B/hip-hop-infused gospel songs pushed that album and its follow-up, 2nd Chance, to levels of crossover success rarely experienced by a gospel artist. Clark-Sheard's third disc, The Heavens Are Telling, incorporates the best elements of her previous outings by showcasing six new live performances alongside five new studio tracks. Rarely does this formula coalesce into a solid listen, as one set of tracks tends to overshadow the other; but in Clark-Sheard's case it works well as the enormity of her voice and depth of her message remain consistent throughout. Recorded in Detroit at the church where her husband serves as senior pastor, the live tracks (which successfully blend in studio overdubs) bristle with energy right from the start, as Clark-Sheard's commanding voice thrillingly demands attention in the jubilant R&B workout "We Acknowledge You." She maintains that joyous intensity on each successive live track, diversely moving through songs like the upbeat Stevie Wonder-ish "Glorious (Make the Praise)" and the gorgeous pop/R&B gospel ballad "God Is Here." The studio tracks, although more urban in tone, comfortably follow as the invigorating hip-hop of "Go Ahead" leads the way with guest Missy Elliott reshaping her songs "Work It" and "Slide" into praising raps. Once again working with her 2nd Chance writers/producers, Clark-Sheard effortlessly sings a set of songs that any R&B diva would be ecstatic to record -- especially when many of them are settling for mediocre retreads. Whether in the studio or on the stage, Karen Clark-Sheard sounds completely in her element and in command and totally committed to her music, her audience, and her message. Although her talent was already apparent as part of the Clark Sisters, it seems that going solo further enhanced her gifts and The Heavens Are Telling lets her rising star shine brilliantly.
The Heavens Are Telling Review
by Aaron Latham