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Music Reviews by Robert M. Marovich


“Still Gon’ Trust”
Joshua Rogers
Mixed Bag Music Group, LLC

Joshua Rogers sums up the sentiments of most in the first few lines of his new single, “Still Gon’ Trust:” “It’s been quite a year / A test of my faith / I’ve seen some things that took my breath away.”

On the chorus, however, Rogers responds with supreme confidence in the Creator: “I’m still gon’ trust in you.”

The song’s simple but effective musical accompaniment, including slight blues turns on piano and strings soaring like seagulls over the sea, affirms Rogers’ message of resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges. It’s been rough but the Lord is there to lean and depend on, sings the BET Sunday Best Season Five champ.

Written by Lucious B. Hoskins and Percy Bady, “Still Gon’ Trust” is one of the finest gospel singles I’ve heard thus far this year. It has the goods.

Kelontae Gavin
The N.O.W. Experience
RCA Inspiration / Marquis Boone Enterprises 

Some gospel artists you meet outside of the church environment startle you when you witness their artistic presence in the spotlight. One is Jekalyn Carr—quiet and measured in informal conversation and a marvel of evangelistic motive force when ministering in music.

Another is Kelontae Gavin. A Marquis Boone client, Gavin is a humble and amiable soul, a young man who conquered dark moments with healthy doses of sunny optimism and faith. But when he enters the spirit realm, Gavin can transform himself from a melodic psalmist into an unconstrained folk preacher–his larynx-shredding shouts like triggered mines exploding in a flower field–and back again.

All of this and more are on display in Gavin’s follow up album to The Higher Experience (Tyscot 2018). His debut release for RCA Inspiration, also recorded live, is called The N.O.W. Experience.

Live is the ideal environment for Gavin, whose approach is extroverted, welcoming, and communal. He gets energy from the congregation / audience. Like its predecessor, The N.O.W. Experience, recorded in November 2019, is essentially a portable worship or song service. Unlike many such projects, however, N.O.W. doesn’t include borderline tiresome extended moments of quiet rapture but instead offers a selection of radio-sized songs, reprises, and ministerial moments blended together. The whole experience, for that is what it is, chugs along as a unified whole rather than as a string of individual parts.

An example of the album’s fluidity is the seamless transition between the megachurch-sized anthem, “Going Up,” to “Never Be the Same” to “Thank You Jesus.” The latter hints musically at Edwin Hawkins’ “Thank You Lord,” with Gavin’s unfettered shouts of gratitude overlaying the background vocalists’ hypnotic repetitive singing of the title.

Afterward, the temperature lowers and the informality of the service continues with the beautiful and reflective “I Shall Live,” which Gavin renders in his upper register. During the reprise, he begins a call-and-response / parenthetical-question-and-answer session with the BGVs. What shall we say to poverty or illness? Gavin inquires, and the singers respond with biblical affirmations of God’s fidelity.

The chorus of the joyous “Victory” is inspired by the Emotions’ “Best of My Love” (like Gavin, the Emotions / Hutchinson sisters were gospel singers as youth).

Gavin renders the album’s single, “Hold Me Close,” like a pilgrim in rapturous prayer, ornamenting the melody in the rococo style of Smokie Norful but ultimately exploding into passionate shouting during the reprise. Just as “No Ordinary Worship” is the keeper from The Higher Experience, “Hold Me Close” is the keeper from The N.O.W. Experience.

Though short on songs destined to make their way into music ministries, “Hold Me Close” being the exception (“I Shall Live” a possible second), The N.O.W. Experience is an excellent representation of Kelontae Gavin’s intimate P&W style. The project will appeal especially to young worshippers.

Pick: “Hold Me Close,” “I Shall Live”


Jason Nelson
Tyscot / Fair Trade 

Those who know Jason Nelson for his gospel balladry will be interested to hear his musical shift on “Residue.”

Nelson’s first single in three years is more rhythmic in arrangement and vocals than his trademark songs “Shifting the Atmosphere” and “Forever.” His voice, meaty and muscular, seems more so when fronting a rhythm section in which his own bass guitar work is front and center.

To describe in contemporary terms how God cleanses the soul completely and sets it free, Nelson pulls on dual images: baptismal water and dishwasher detergent that promises to leave “no residue.” GLO used a similar metaphor for salvation on his 2009 Christian hip hop song, “Oxy Clean.”

A Jason Nelson album is in the works for release later this year. Meanwhile, the GRAMMY-nominated singer serves as pastor of The Tab (Formerly The Tabernacle at Greater Bethlehem Temple) in Windsor Mills, Maryland.

Robert M. Marovich is the founder and editor of

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