De-Ann Lott - Return to the Center (2013)

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    It must be a wonderful feeling for a vocalist when he or she has earned a place in history with one of the most prestigious families in gospel music.

     De-Ann Lott is one of many vocalists who participated in the Love Alive recorded series with the well-renowned Love Center Choir from the church founded by the gospel pioneer Walter Hawkins (once married to another legend, Tremaine Hawkins).  While Lott has paid her vocal dues as a much in-demand backing vocalist in the Bay Area backing Daryl Coley and others, her ties to the Hawkins extend from one generation to the next.  After breaking from the music industry to pursue other interests, Lott’s strong passion for spreading the gospel eventually connected her to Walter and Tremaine’s son, Jamie Hawkins.  This special relationship eventually led to Lott’s self-released debut, Return to the Center, guided by Jamie’s impeccable production skills and reflecting Lott’s faith in Christ through her experience in social work.

    Return to the Center utilizes Lott’s classically trained voice that embraces praise and worship via world music, jazz, soul, R&B and contemporary gospel.  Imagine The Emotions leading worship for the seventies-soul opener, “Worthy to Be Praised,” with smooth funk beds and honey-dipped vocal hooks. “God Kept Me” leans more towards a contemporary R&B flavor, filled with Jamie’s tasty organ licks.  Several jazz-accented tracks are on tap, including “Just Your Word,” a song begins appropriately with the Bible’s opening words:  “In the beginning was The Word.”  “My Everything” generates plenty of Latin swing, while the popular hymn “Spirit of the Living God” eases into a soothing African canvas painted by jazz veteran Alphonso Johnson on fretless bass guitar and a South African vocal quartet singing in the Xhosa language.  Where Return to the Center really excels is the Deniece Williams penned “God is Truly Amazing,” as Lott’s soprano captures Williams’ vocal elegance.   In fact, the entire album, save the less spark-filled “Top of Your Mountain” and “Nothing to Lose,” shows the near perfect match of Lott and Jamie Hawkins. 

    Return to the Center is more than an impressive showcase for Lott’s vocal flexibility and zeal.  This debut marks the moment where Lott has gained a musical soul mate in Jamie Hawkins, whose family continues making significant contributions to the gospel community.       

    Other Notable Tracks:  “Faith”    

    Vocals:  4.0 stars
    Music:  3.0 stars
    Lyrics:  3.5 stars
    Production:  3.0 stars
    SoulTracks Call:  Recommended

    By Peggy Oliver