Shoe the Doe LIVE
recorded in the studio May 2012
Episode 04: NMD “Fair Shake”
New Music Digest
In this segment we review several new albums! We listen to the first few songs and chat about what we’re experiencing.
New Music Digest
From their website:
“Fearless. That one word eloquently captures the creative spirit of groundbreaking duo Mary Mary. Ever since siblings Erica Campbell and Tina Campbell broke through in 2000 with the pioneering crossover hit “Shackles (Praise You),” the chart-topping sister act has never wavered from defying convention to fulfill its mission: sending uplifting messages through music and words that are relatable to everyone.
“It’s about making music that touches both adults and young people,” says Erica. Adds Tina, “It’s about spreading good news for the world but doing it in the Mary Mary way: banging beats and melodies, intertwined voices and messages of hope.”
An amazing ten years later, having earned 3 Grammy Awards, 2 American Music Awards, an NAACP Image Award and a BET Award, the “Mary Mary way” sounds just as fresh and innovative on the duo’s sixth album, the aptly titled SOMETHING BIG (My Block/Columbia/Sony Music; March 29, 2011). This vibrant outing, once again produced by longtime collaborator Warryn Campbell, picks up where the group’s most recent mainstream success story, 2008’s The Sound and its Grammy Award-winning smash hit “God in Me,” left off.
Paving the way for SOMETHING BIG is the lively lead single “Walking.” After only nine weeks at radio, the single has already marched its way into the top 10 at Urban AC and is steadily growing. In the vein of “God in Me,” Mary Mary’s 2009 Auto-Tune-laden R&B/hip-hop crossover hit, “Walking” bounces along with synthesizer-accented, percolating rhythms while delivering its uplifting message. “Some say walking takes too long/I say with walking you can’t go wrong/I rock with the greatest,” proclaim Tina and Erica.
Like Mary Mary’s previous albums, SOMETHING BIG resonates with a fusion of sound (R&B, hip-hop, dance, pop, gospel and jazz) and empowering messages. But unlike earlier efforts, this album also features more collaborations with several talented new writers. A case in point is Jazz Nixon, who crafted the title track. Interpolating the Jackson 5’s 1971 hit “Mama’s Pearl,” complemented by an edgy bass and drum mix and spirited hand claps, the track puts a contemporary spin on the traditional call and response song.
“We always go into the studio with the intention of, ‘Hey, why not try this out,” says Tina. “When we heard ‘Something Big’ the first time, it just screamed out to us. It worked tremendously with our chemistry.”
Showcasing their signature crystalline harmonies, Mary Mary raises goosebumps on the striking “It Is Well.” Produced by Warryn Campbell, the a cappella track quietly soars as the song confidently declares, “I’ve had more than my share of pain/Still I believe that all things will work out for my good/It is well with me.”
“People ask us all the time whether we’re gospel, inspirational or trying to go pop,” says Erica. “Tina and I are artists whose music fits in so many other places. That’s always been the leading force behind each of our albums. Knowing who we are, we know each album can be different from the next.”
Born in Inglewood, CA to an evangelist/choir director mother and a youth minister father, sisters Erica and Tina Atkins—and their six other siblings—grew up singing in church choirs. After a stint studying vocal performance at local El Camino College, Erica and Tina joined the lineup of traveling gospel shows and toured as backup singers for several R&B acts.
Three years later, songwriter/producer Warryn Campbell played a pivotal role in the sisters’ career, helping them secure a song publishing deal with EMI. Soon thereafter, the pair began accumulating writing and performance credits on soundtracks and through songs recorded by various recording artists.
With their platinum-selling, Grammy-winning debut album, Thankful, Mary Mary hit a homerun, due in large part to the broad success of its first single, “Shackles (Praise You),” in 2000. Their sophomore follow-up, Incredible, was released in 2002 and was certified gold, before the group released such hits as “Heaven,” “The Real Party,” and “Yesterday” on their self-titled album, Mary Mary (2005), which peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200. Their success continued with the release of an acclaimed holiday project, A Mary Mary Christmas, in 2006. It is Mary Mary’s The Sound (2008), however, that sparked Mary Mary’s best mainstream success to date, bowing at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 on the publication’s R&B/hip-hop chart, as well as garnering numerous awards for the album, and for its record-breaking single “God In Me.”
Yet with their tremendous accomplishments, the sisters are quick to point out that they’re driven by something far greater–“It’s not just about musical achievements, awards, charts and sales,” says Erica. “That’s not our guiding light. It’s about connecting with people and offering them real hope…hope that, ultimately, changes lives.”
“We’re committed to our message and purpose,” adds Tina. “Years later, we’re still here; our fans are still with us and our audience is still growing. We’re just so grateful to still have this opportunity.” ”
“Norah Jones has released Little Broken Hearts (Blue Note/EMI), her stunning new album produced by Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) which features original songs co-written by Jones and Burton.Jones drew the inspiration for the album cover from the vintage movie posters that adorn Burton’s Los Angeles studio. “Brian has this great collection of Russ Meyer posters in his studio,” explains Jones, “and this particular one, called Mudhoney, was right over the couch where I sat every day. I always was looking at it and thinking ‘that’s so cool I want to look like her!’ I remember staring at the poster the whole time we made the record. It’s a great visual.”Little Broken Hearts is the fascinating next step in the artistic evolution of one of the music world’s most consistently intriguing singer-songwriters. Jones first emerged on the world stage 10 years ago this month with the February 2002 release of Come Away With Me, her self-described “moody little record” that introduced a singular new voice and grew into a global phenomenon, sweeping the 2003 Grammy Awards and signaling a paradigm shift away from the prevailing synthetic pop music of the time. Come Away With Me has just become the #10 best-selling album of the Soundscan era. The album has sold 25 million copies worldwide.Since then, Jones has released three more critically acclaimed and commercially successful solo albums—Feels Like Home (2004), Not Too Late (2007), and The Fall (2009)—as well as two albums with her country collective The Little Willies.The 2010 compilation …Featuring Norah Jones showed her to possess an incredibly versatile voice by collecting her collaborations with artists as diverse as Willie Nelson, Outkast, Herbie Hancock, and Foo Fighters. Jones previously collaborated with Danger Mouse on his acclaimed 2011 album ROME, a valentine to classic Italian film score music that also featured Jack White.
Jones will tour extensively in 2012, performing at a mixture of festivals, amphitheatres and theatres in the US and abroad.”
Big Daddy Weave
From their website:
Truly compelling music makes the personal universal. Few artists have done that more consistently or more movingly than Big Daddy Weave. Through more than a decade of hits like “In Christ,” “Audience of One,” “You’re Worthy Of My Praise,” “Every Time I Breathe,” What Life Would Be Like,” and “You Found Me,” they have shared the journey in a way that has won the ongoing respect of fans, press and industry alike. Their musical journey began with a Dove Awards nomination as New Artist of the Year in 2002 and includes a 2010 Dove Award for the album Christ Has Come. They have been honored at ASCAP’s Christian Music Awards, were chosen for the WOW Hits compilations in five of the last six years and are one of the 10 most played artists at Christian radio over the past decade.
Most recently, they hit the top of the Christian AC chart – the fourth time they’ve done so – with “Love Come To Life,” a song about the desire to have the love that Christ put in our hearts be more than words that we say, but a love that comes to life in actions. A song filled with passion and intimacy, and with the musical hooks and majestic sound that have marked so much of their work, it is the perfect introduction to Love Come To Life, their first studio album in more than three years.
Love Come To Life demonstrates once again the passion and energy that have made Big Daddy Weave one of Christian music’s most compelling acts for nearly a dozen years. True to form, the project teems with real life and emotion, from longing and struggle to breakthrough and gratitude, with front man Mike Weaver’s forthright songwriting and intimate and unmistakable vocals backed by powerful arrangements and stellar musicianship. It derives its power from the fact that life and music intertwine so fully.
“We’ve faced a lot of personal challenges and adversity during the past couple of years,” says Mike, “Coming to the other side of that leaves us with fresh things to share, and in a place where we can share even more deeply than ever before.” Those challenges, from the fatigue faced at times by musicians who spend much of their time on the road, to a devastating fire that swept through guitarist/producer Jeremy Redmon’s house and studio, and health issues faced by some band members, produced a record that reflects two sides of the Christian life.
“You’ve got the ones I term the belly-achers,” says Mike with a laugh. “Those are the hurting songs, which are way outnumbered by what came after that, the songs that say, ‘We can’t wait to worship God because we see even in tragedy, God, You are triumphant.'”
The bridge between the two was a spiritual breakthrough Mike felt about a year into the process of writing for the project.
“I was really at a low point,” he says, “struggling with my imperfections. I was in my garage; my man cave where I work out. I felt like God said to my spirit, ‘Why don’t you let me tell you what I think about you and what I like about you?’ He started with, ‘I love your heart for people,’ and went from there. I was like a broken heap on the floor of my garage. The things he was talking about are not future tense things like a lot of people, the I think ‘If I could get to this point and look like this and achieve that I would be all right.’ He has this ‘I love who you are right now’ mentality. ‘I accept you right now. You need to accept you right now.’ At that point, I couldn’t write from that hurting place anymore. I thought, ‘I’ve got to worship now.'”
The result is that songs like the title track and “Save My Life,” a song Mike describes as “gut-level honesty,” give way to others like “Magnificent God,” whose spirit of worship is set amid a sound both intimate and majestic; “Jesus Move,” a passionate call for Jesus’ power to flow into believers written with Phil Wickham; “Different Light,” a rocker that celebrates the way faith rewrites even the most troubled past; and “If You Died Tonight,” a tenderly insistent request to a friend to consider ultimate truths.
“This is a record that’s a lot more transparent,” says drummer Jeff Jones. “It’s one that all of us are super excited about. We can give it to people and say, ‘This is what God has been doing in our lives.”
In fact, the band’s own breakthrough, born of a renewed emphasis on personal ministry at their concerts, is part in the record’s feel.
“God has a plan with all of this stuff,” says Jeremy, “and maybe it took that extra time and our journey as a band to really bring these songs to life. There have been big changes over the last couple of tours as we’ve allowed more time for ministry. It’s been a season of growth and change for all of us, and the fact that Mike was able to write with worship leaders like Phil, Carl Cartee and Paul Baloche really helped bring all of that into focus for the record.”
As always, Jeremy’s production is key in bringing the songs to life.
“We approached each song with a question,” he says. “‘Where can we take this that will make this sonically a new experience, something we haven’t done before.’ And I hope the way we did that will open up new ears to our music.”
That meeting of life and music has been part and parcel of Big Daddy Weave’s appeal since their days. Formed at the University of Mobile, the quintet – Mike, his brother Jay, who plays bass, Jeremy, Jeff, and keyboardist/saxophonist Joe Shirk – released an independent album in 2001 and then landed a deal with Fervent Records, their label home ever since. “One and Only,” the title track from their first Fervent album, debuted in SoundScan’s Christian Top 5 and remained in the Top 20 for six weeks. “In Christ” peaked at #2, stayed for 24 weeks on R&R’s AC chart, earned a spot on the Dove Hits album, and became one of ASCAP’s most-performed songs of 2002 – a milestone also achieved by “Audience of One” in 2003. Then, Hurricane Ivan in 2004 damaged several band members’ Florida homes and led to Mike’s relocation to Nashville. The fact that the move led to Mike’s marriage to a Fervent staffer still leaves him shaking his head.
“Even in the bad times, he’s working it out,” he says with a laugh.
The band has always kept a busy touring schedule and in fact often recorded parts of their early albums in hotel rooms, “literally using the turned-up mattress and box springs as sound baffles to record vocals,” Mike says. The fact that those records touched lives and earned chart success is evident in their recent hits package, The Ultimate Collection.
“That was some closure in a way,” says Mike. “We are thankful for those years, but in as much as we’re seeing the things God has done, we are very full of vision for the future and in so many ways it just feels brand new to us right now.”
Which is something reflected as the band hits the road with songs from Love Come To Life.
“We can go forward united as a band,” says Jay. “We had been struggling to find balance as family men, touring musicians, and people following the Lord. But the Lord has given us healing and blessed us with being able to find the balance in him. It’s been amazing to see God do that in us.”
“We are excited about the album,” adds Joe, “and I think fans are going to love it. It’s an opportunity to point to something way bigger than the band, to the body of believers working together, bringing glory to the Lord. I tell pastors that Big Daddy Weave is the best church I’ve ever been a part of. When they raise their eyebrows, I say, ‘Yeah, I spend more time in fellowship with these guys than any church members spend together. This is the church of the 45-foot bus going down whatever road it is today. It’s the fellowship of my Christian brothers.”
“This is as much a real family as anything else,” says Mike. “The work that God has done in our band makes it all new again because of our sense of purpose, not just to make music but to be used of God. And that’s the bottom line–what God wants us to do with this.”
Big Daddy Weave is:
Mike – Songwriter/Lead Vocals/Guitar
Brian – Drums
Jay – Bass/Vocals
Joe – Saxophone/Keyboards
Jeremy – Guitars/Vocals”