One could almost say Dorinda Clark Cole was famous from the day she was born. As one of four daughters of the internationally renowned Gospel choir director and composer, Dr. Mattie Moss-Cole, she has been singing for a congregation or audience since she was five, and recording with her sisters—widely known to Gospel fans for years as the Clark Sisters—since the mid-‘80s.
With the release of her second solo album, Live From Houston…The Rose of Gospel, she continues to not only build her famous family legacy, but even more to develop and refine her own distinct—and often devastating—individual artistic signature. Dorinda’s unparalleled improvisational skills earned her the reputation as “the jazzy one” of the sisters. There’s certainly no argument with that. Over the years, her dazzling scats, riffs, and runs have become almost legendary. But that’s just one edge of a pallet that is filled with a seemingly endless array of colors, hues and shadings. And Dorinda paints freely from it all.
On Live From Houston…The Rose of Gospel she applies those prodigious gifts to a project that, in her words, “is meant to reach everybody—from the youngest to the oldest.” And she succeeds stunningly at every turn.
Perhaps known best for her uptempo songs and an energy level that seems to know no limits, Dorinda is every bit as powerful on heart-rending ballads, and she can still “have church” with the best of them. The ten songs of Live From Houston…The Rose of Gospel, the majority of which were written or co-written by Dorinda and produced with the master touch of Alex Ward, perfectly balance the “classic Dorinda” sound with some bold steps toward the contemporary tip, all without missing a beat.
Approaching Live From Houston…The Rose of Gospel with the stated intent of “breaking down walls and giving everybodysomething they could hold onto,” Dorinda expresses an ideal far more often and easily spoken than realized. What sets Dorinda in class all her own is the simple fact that she not only means what she says, but at every bend in the road she turns those lofty words into living, breathing, mind-boggling, heart-pounding reality.
One pass through the edgy funk of “Got Work to Do,” the smooth, jazzy “Rest of My Life,” and the seriously church-as-church-ought-to-be, “Nobody Did This But God,” and one comes to the sudden and stunning realization her long-time fans have known forever: Dorinda Clark Cole is simply never over her head nor out of her element.
She swings and soars on the mighty, massive, rock-till-you-drop groove of “Rescue Praise,” laying down a flat-out dare for anybodywith a pulse to sit still. The joyous, rollicking “Great Is the Lord” is perhaps the catchiest, most irresistible church anthem ever written, while the gorgeous, soul-stirring “I’ve Got A Reason” could soften even the hardest of hearts.
Dorinda’s gifted sibling, Gospel luminary Twinkie Clark, perhaps puts it best when she offers a simple summation—short and sweet—of her little sister’s secret: “Dorinda just knows, instinctively, how to work a song for everything it’s worth.” Indeed.
With a pastor father, and a mother whose name was almost synonymous with Gospel music, Dorinda and her sisters have deep roots in both church and family. “We were always a close-knit family,” Dorinda recalls, “and my sisters and I were not only raised in church, we were trained by our parents to take responsibility for entire parts of the service if the situation required.”
Though Dorinda remembers Shirley Caesar, among others, as being an important influence in her musical development, it was unquestionably her mother who shaped Dorinda and her sisters into the extraordinary vocalists they are today. An acclaimed conductor as well as composer, Dr. Clark would sometimes use on-the-job training to educate her gifted offspring.
“When Mom was writing a song for her choir, she would often work it out first using us,” Dorinda says, laughing. “I can remember being awakened at night and Mom bringing us all into the living room to sing a new song of hers. She’d be taping it on an old reel-to-reel recorder, and she was serious about it. She’d say: `Girl, wake up now. Here’s your part and you better get it right!’”
Today Dorinda juggles the role of wife, and mother of two, with a host of additional responsibilities, including several high-level executive and administrative positions in the national Church of God in Christ (COGIC), CEO of her own Lifelines Productions, administrator and instructor at the Clark Conservatory of Music—founded by her mother—and coordinator of the Conservatory’s annual “Singers & Musicians Conference,” which instructs and showcases young talent in the Gospel music industry.
She also is a highly sought-after evangelist and motivational speaker, touching hearts, changing minds, and winning souls for the Kingdom with a gift for the spoken word that, in its own unique way, is as impactful as her way with a song.
Though Dorinda is quick to emphasize that “there will always be a Clark Sisters,” she also has her gaze fixed on horizons of her own, even greater than those she has already reached in both music and ministry.
“I want to reach the church, but I want to reach those who’ve never been inside the four walls of a church, as well,” she says. “Wherever I share my music, I want people to know they don’t have to leave the same way they came in. If they came brokenhearted—with no peace, no joy—they don’t have to go on that way. There’s a better way, and that’s what I want to bring to them. I want to reach the masses, and give them that message.”
Dorinda Clark-Cole’s Live From Houston…The Rose of Gospelcontinues to bloom, bright and brilliant, and as beautiful as ever.
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