CeCe Winans - Thy Kingdom Come (2008)

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    The Winans family has always been about giving their brand of gospel music strong lyrics. That was true when I was first introduced to the Winans brothers in the early and mid 1980s. That group combined soaring harmonies with some of the most achingly personal and topically relevant lyrics in contemporary gospel. The Winans were talking about Afghanistan and Iran back in 1981, and tying it all to Biblical prophecy. While the group's lyrics were thoroughly rooted in the word of God, every member of this first family of gospel music knew how to fuse those biblically based tunes with the sound of the street. Their stuff always got regular airplay on R&B/soul radio, and not just on Sunday morning when the program directors gave the gospel jocks the run of the place. Songs such as "The Question Is," "Ain't No Need to Worry," "It's Time" and BeBe and CeCe Winans' "Heaven" and "Additive Love" were played Monday through Saturday as well.

    So it should be no surprise that CeCe Winans' latest disc, Thy Kingdom Come, brings together all of the elements gospel fans and music fans have come to expect from members of this family - namely, angelic singing, strong lyrics that avoid cliché and affirm the word of God and melodies that capture the zeitgeist of the times.

    The album's diversity means that Thy Kingdom Come is a record in which the praise and worship crowd, the contemporary Christian fans and the straight up gospel enthusiasts will find something to like.

    The folks who want to get their holy dance on will be feeling "It Ain't Over." The praise team leaders will gravitate toward "Waging War." Those who like gospel with a world music flavor will definitely find themselves putting "Thy Will Be Done" on repeat, and those who prefer a more contemporary Christian sound will find something that they like in the first two songs, "Holy Father God," and "Forever." The latter is also another song that will appeal to praise and worship team leaders.

    One of the songs that show cases how this album fuses instantly compelling musical arrangements with powerful lyrics is "Test of Time." At a time when unemployment is up, the stock market down and there are wars and rumors of wars, the message that God is timeless, everywhere and all powerful is one that many people will find comforting. And Winans' lyrics - "I own the world/Yes, it's all mine/so why don't you let me carry you" - contain a message that has carried people of faith through many difficult days.

    Thy Kingdom Come is all that people come to expect from the Winans, and to some modern listeners that can appear to mean a work is tired and dated. However, that is not the case here. This is not one that will instantly come grab you because Thy Kingdom Come is not an in your face kind of record. And in a time when gettin' in our collective grilles is what passes for sincerity, there's a risk that this record could get slept on. However, I encourage you to take the time to listen and listen deeply. You will be blessed.

    By Howard Dukes