KIM BURRELL: A Different Place (Shanachie)

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‘A Different Place’ is Houston born gospel diva Kim Burrell’s sixth solo album and for the 11 tracker she’s reunited with producer Asaph Ward who was responsible for her 2011 Grammy-nominated set ‘The Love Album’. Between them Ward and Burrell here craft a consummate modern gospel set that will, of course, please the gospel congregation but also appeal to the sophisticated modern soul crowd who’ll enjoy the classy production, the melodic tunes, the soulful grooves and, above else, Ms Burrell’s mighty voice.

Hear that remarkable instrument in full flow from the start with the crisp opener, ‘Praise Groove’. Sure, it’s an inspirational item but any soul fan will be able to connect with its soulful flow and committed delivery. In some ways it reminds me of the great music that Jam and Lewis created with the Sounds Of Blackness and there’s more of the same on ‘Thank You Jesus’, ‘I’m Free Indeed’ and the remarkable ‘Falling In Love With You’. That one begins with studio banter and some jazz scatting before the beats kick in underpinning a soaring vocal. It’s a truly joyous groove and the message, of course, could be secular as well as religious. It’s as full of uplifting optimism as the SOB’s ‘Optimistic’.

The sweet ballad ‘Never Let Go’ is another cut with a lyrical duality and it would shine in any Quiet Storm radio segment. Kim’s vocal is heart-achingly tender and there’s great sax from Donald Hayes. That sensual sax is featured more fully on an ‘Easy Listening Mix’ which closes the album… brief but lovely

The long player’s big set piece is a 7 minute plus treatment of a lyric based on chapter 11 of St Mark’s gospel… ‘Have Faith In Me’. Possibly too complex for non-believers, but even those would attest to the majesty of Ms B’s voice here and if you needed more proof as to why Whitney Houston considered Kim the greatest contemporary soul singer, try the sombre ballad, ‘It Is Done’. I doubt you’ll hear a more searingly soulful performance this year. Proper soul music!

(BB) 4/5