It is quite commonplace for established R&B/soul artists to revisit their gospel roots from time to time (i.e. Kelly Price, Howard Hewitt, etc.). Then there are those who chose to stay close to their church upbringing from the very beginning, even if they were originally pursuing another genre. One particular singer/songwriter decided that her ultimate faith in God was enough to forfeit her initial career singing R&B for gospel. Cheneta Jones was oh-so-close to signing on the dotted line for her first solo recording contract. After an ‘encounter’ from God the St. Louis native fully dedicated her talents towards gospel and inspirational music, and many doors immediately opened for the aspiring vocalist.
Jones’ vocal approach partially echoes Kim Burrell, one of her inspirations. Her performance of Burrell’s “I Come to You More Than I Give” earned her the top prize in The Hallelujah Praise Alive Talent Search under the judgeship of Donnie McClurkin, Percy Bady and other influential gospel figures. Since then, Jones self-released her debut, The Cheneta Jones Experience, and shared the stage with the likes of Fred Hammond, Deitrick Haddon and Tye Tribbett.
Though Jones’ gospel platform is still growing leaps and bounds, her faith has generated a long series of tests offstage. Her sophomore disc, Transformed, is a collection of songs written by Jones based on the past two years of adjusting to various personal trials. The gentle spirit that surrounds the title track iterates Jones’ purpose of serving God wholeheartedly. She proclaims her freedom in Christ on “Liberty”: “I’m so different/Can’t you see.” A personal yearning for one’s heavenly home, “Get There,” breezes through melodic twists and turns that cover folk, jazz, blues and soul. The Bady-produced and composed “My Everything” and “Be Like You,” emphasize that people are made in God’s image: “I’m fearfully and wonderfully made/You are the potter and I’m the clay,” are perfect outlets for those who prefer their worship with a mild urban kick. Jones’ jazz-infused alto works most effectively on Transformed when the production leans more towards an acoustic flair that frees Jones up to express her inner most thoughts.
There are two other tracks on Transformed outside the acoustic vein that could have earned positive grades, but don’t fully live up to their potential. The Haddon-like funk on “I’m Yours” for one. The ‘70s retro “Fire,” quoting The Ohio Players’ hit of the same name, is sadly another. These tracks are undone by the massively processed background vocals and production that detracts from Jones’ otherwise winning vocal personality.
Overall, the consistencies on Transformed far overshadow the few issues present. Jones’ bold statements on Transformed are the real reason why her adamant choice to serve full-time in the gospel music ministry was the right call. Recommended.
By Peggy Oliver