JUNE ROCHELLE: Play This (Label: Remarkable)

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One of last year’s best indie gospel albums was June Rochelle’s ‘Changing Places’ and as is often the case with the very best of contemporary gospel, several of the LP’s cuts found favour on the modern soul circuit. Since then June’s been busy working with Barack Obama’s campaign (encouraging voter registration) and also putting together this new collection. The new set – though still, naturally, a gospel album – has a more of a contemporary R&B flavour than ‘Changing Places’. Cuts like ‘U Can’t Break My Spirit’, ‘God Is Good’, ‘Do My Work’ and ‘Delivered’ have all the musical characteristics of glossy MTV Base R&B, while on one of the album’s focal points – ‘Flying High Part II’, there’s even a rap. Like the Mary Mary sisters, Ms. Rochelle sees no conflict in using street flavours to reach out with her message, though she still includes what might be termed “traditional” gospel sounds and smoother soul settings in an attempt, I guess, to keep all parties happy. There are two cuts which we might call old style gospel – the simple ‘Pray’ and the hymn-like ‘Holy Is The Lamb’; both evoke the simple store front churches of another age. On a different tip, ‘A Better Place’ and ‘Love Somebody’s Pain Away’ are the most soulful grooves. A pair of mid-tempo cuts, they could please discerning modern soul folk anywhere. What holds the LP’s diversity together is Ms. Rochelle’s remarkable voice. There’s soul-a-plenty in it – soul that can only come from true faith, commitment to, and belief in what she’s creating with her music. Hear it to best effect on ‘You’ve Been So Good’ – an old skool soul ballad with a gospel lyric that draws on ‘You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman’. On it June testifies in the best traditions of Aretha, Patti and beyond. The album is currently available via CD Baby and other internet outlets.
(BB) 3/5