Inspired by the forthcoming book “The Law of Confession” by Bill Winston (Lawrence’s pastor at Chicago’s Living Word Christian Center), Lawrence has crafted an epic recording that revolves around a simple Biblical tenet. “A law is simply a principle, based on the predictable consequence of an act,” Lawrence says. “Confession in the Greek language is homo-logeo which means to say what has been said. There is a spiritual law for confession: you just say what God has already said…`Speak The Word.’” Grammy-winning producer, composer and recording artist Donald Lawrence is one of the most influential figures in modern gospel music. After a stint as music director for soul legend Stephanie Mills, Lawrence made a splash in the gospel world by reshaping the regional Tri-City Singers in the 1990s and transforming them into an internationally acclaimed choir. As a producer, Lawrence has collaborated with artists as diverse as Mary J. Blige and jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, Hezekiah Walker and the legendary Clark Sisters. Now, Lawrence is producing himself again (along with Daniel Weatherspoon) for his sophomore solo CD The Law of Confession Part 1 (Quiet Water/ Zomba Gospel).
Lawrence and his ten-plus member backing ensemble, The Co. (which backed him on his Grammy-nominated 2004 I Speak Life solo CD debut), create a warmly engaging atmosphere on this stellar project. “I picked lead singers based on the feel and color of the song,” he opines. “Since I’ve worked with so many singers and I believe some of the best singers on this planet – I’m extremely picky when it comes to lead vocals. They must have a lot of heart!”
The new incarnation of The Co. features such notables as Dewayne Woods (who won the Stellar Award for Best New Artist of the Year in 2008 following his smash hit “Let Go, Let God”), the effervescent Kim McFarland-Anderson, the dynamic Jason Nelson and Latrice Pace of the Anointed Pace Sisters. The group is rounded out with Lisa Jones, Tobbi White-Darks, Tommie White, Dawn Jordan, Blanche McAllister-Dykes, Anita Wilson, Michael Smith, and Floyd Wilkinson.
The Co. is comprised of some of the industry’s best singers that Lawrence has met since moving to Chicago in 2001 and those he’s known since his days in North Carolina. The Charlotte native was raised by a church-going aunt in Gastonia where he sang in the Mills Chapel Fire Baptized Holiness Church’s choir. He grew up on the music of gospel icons like Thomas Whitfield.
A self taught pianist and organist, Lawrence began writing songs at the age of sixteen. He put himself through the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and was staging plays such as “Sing Hallelujah” (which opened at New York’s storied Village Gate) when R&B star Stephanie Mils tapped him as her music director circa 1989. Aside from his duties with Mills, he was a member of an inspirational R&B group, The Company. Their single “Angel” was an R&B hit in 1993, the same year that Lawrence produced the first Tri-City Singers album, From A Songwriter’s Point of View.
Lawrence had been feeding his songs to the Tri-City Singers (comprised of singers from the Carolina cities of Charlotte, Gastonia and Spartanburg) through his pal Richard Odom, who was a member of the choir. The choir’s members enjoyed the songs so much that Lawrence was eventually asked to shepherd the group. Over the next fifteen years, Lawrence guided the choir into superstar status in the gospel world with hits such as “The Best is Yet to Come”, “Encourage Yourself” and “The Blessing of Abraham” which was #1 on the Radio & Records gospel chart for a then-record breaking 18 weeks in 2005. After a very successful Finale CD/DVD release and farewell concert tour with the Tri-City Singers, Lawrence retired from the group in 2007 to focus on personal and solo pursuits such as The Law of Confession Part 1 project which features the following songs:
THE WORD OF THE LORD
The set opens with the jubilant, up-tempo tune that finds Lawrence front and center. It feels like Sunday morning aerobics, ready to bring every listener to his or her feet.
BACK 2 EDEN
This upbeat, funky anthem with retro soul horn lines exudes a bounce that will make the numbest of feet spring into dance. The Co. does a vibrant call and response with the listener as Floyd Wilkinson (one of the Windy City’s finest tenors) adlibs on the tail end of the track. “The message of this one is clear,” Lawrence offers. “This is pushing people to get back to our original design. God deemed for us a life of family, good health, wealth, spirituality and love. . I’m reminding us of this principle and saying what are you waiting for? Let’s get back to our original purposes.”
LAW OF CONFESSION
This mid-tempo groove echoes the concept of this CD that the power of life and death is in the tongue, and that what one speaks is what one gets. This tune features joint leads by Tobbie White-Darks and Blanche McAllister-Dykes.
THE BLESSING IS ON YOU
This poignant ballad is led by Kim McFarland-Anderson, who is known for leading “For the Good of Them” with the Thompson Community Singers. This song holds special meaning during these trying economic times. “The blessing is defined by Pastor Winston as God’s covenant with man that overrides the Earth’s curse,” Lawrence explains. “That means that God has given us His Word during all troubling times that we will be covered and protected from economic crashes, sickness, high gas prices. It doesn’t matter. The blessing is on you and you’ll go through troubling times but with all your needs met.”
WORD OF MY POWER
This emotionally riveting track is a simple reprise of “The Blessing is on You.” On the song, The Co. speaks words of encouragement, prayers and blessings over the listener as the musicians chime in.
CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM
Drawing on the vibes of his childhood musical heroes Walter Hawkins and Andrae Crouch & the Disciples, Lawrence delivers this churchy, old school traditional-styled number. “This reminds everyone of the benefits of being a child of God and being a part of his kingdom,” Lawrence explains. “God created us to replenish the earth with light after Satan had plagued it with darkness.”
LET THE WORD DO THE WORK (ONE WORD AWAY)
The collection closes on the high-energy track that features an up and coming rapper from Brooklyn, Brother Hahz. “God spake and things happened,” Lawrence says. “This makes you realize that the Word did the work. The CD is about applying the Word of the Lord to everyday life that it may change your personal speech, speaking only positive things and things of good report.”
HAPPY BEING ME
In recent years, Lawrence’s music has taken on a mantle of empowerment through faith on songs such as “Love the Hurt Away.” This self-affirmation is apparent on the warm and fuzzy “Happy Being Me” that features Anita Wilson backed by Tobbie White-Darks and Tommie White a la Diana Ross & the Supremes. Topping off the Motown vibe was Howard Levy giving a Stevie Wonder-styled harmonica solo. “This song was written by a good friend Derrick Allen,” Lawrence recalls. “I wanted to record this tune when I first heard it. He let hear it even before it was mixed for Angie Stone’s [2007 The Art of Love & War] record. I want people to speak themselves into a spiritually positive place. God made something beautiful when he made us all. If you love yourself, you’ll love life much more. Be happy being you and continue to reach your maximum potential.”
I’VE GOT SOMETHING
Lawrence dusts off another evergreen with this selection. Columbia, South Carolina’s Blanche McAllister-Dykes tackles the lead vocals on the Richard Smallwood Singers’ timeless 1987 track. Her rich, deep alto makes the song’s triumphant message resonate with divine confidence. “This song just stresses that if you have God’s word inside of you, the world can’t take anything away from your destiny,” Lawrence muses.
THERE IS A KING IN YOU
“There’s a King in You’ is my favorite song on the project,” Lawrence confesses of the rousing track. “Pastor Winston gave a sermon on this topic. It was an amazing experience for me. Life has caused us not to dream as we once did and our speaking has changed. Why is the lender speaking like the borrower? Why is the head speaking as if it’s the tail? We come from royalty and there is a King inside of us all. Embrace your inner King.”
Over the years, Lawrence’s songs such as “I’m Healed” and “You Covered Me” have read as good reports to his burgeoning fan base and The Law of Confession Part 1upholds the tradition. “I think my music is therapeutic,” he once said. “It’s aimed at helping people feel better; to help them get through life, to help them understand that what hurts them is not meant to kill them. As I’ve ‘grown up, I try to write music that helps people understand who they are, how they are and who they are called to be. I’ve received an e-mails from people saying `I’m changing everything. I’m going back to what I dreamed of doing.’ It’s really just having a revelation of what Scripture means today and, being able to apply it to our 21st century. That’s the key to The Law of Confession and the spirit behind it.”
DONALD LAWRENCE & COMPANY DISCOGRAPHY
2008 The Law of Confession Part 1/Quiet water – Zomba Gospel
2004 I Speak Life/Quiet water – Zomba Gospel
DONALD LAWRENCE & TRI-CITY SINGERS DISCOGRAPHY
2006 Finale Act I & II/EMI
2003 The Best of Donald Lawrence & Tri-City Singers: Restoring the Years/EMI
2002 Go Get Your Life Back/EMI
1997 Hello Christmas/Crystal Rose
1995 Bible Stories/Crystal Rose
1993 A Songwriter’s Point of View/Gospocentric
SELECTED DONALD LAWRENCE PRODUCER CREDITS
2008 Hezekiah Walker’s Souled Out/Zomba Gospel
2007 Clark Sisters’ Live… One Last Time/EMI
2006 Coko’s Grateful /Light Records
2003 Mary J. Blige’s Love & Life/Geffen
2001 Kelly Price’s One Family Christmas/Def Jam
1999 Bishop T.D. Jakes’ Sacred Love Songs/Island
1997 Karen Clark-Sheard’s Finally Karen/Island
1991 Stephanie Mills’ Christmas/MCA
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
2008 Grammy Award, Producer, for The Clark Sisters’ Live… One Last Time
2008 Stellar Award, Producer, for The Clark Sisters’ Live…One Last Time
2007 Eight Stellar Awards including Producer of the Year for Finale: Act One
2006 Seven Stellar Awards including Artist of the Year for I Speak Life
TOP TEN HITS COMPOSED BY DONALD LAWRENCE
2007 “Livin’” by the Clark Sisters/ EMI
2006 “Encourage Yourself” by the Tri-City Singers/EMI
2005 “The Blessing of Abraham” by the Tri-City Singers/EMI
2004 “Celebrate” by Ted & Sheri/Word
2002 “The Best is Yet to Come” by the Tri-City Singers/EMI
2000 “Never Seen the Righteous” by the Tri-City Singers/EMI
2000 “God’s Favor” by Kelly Price, Kim Burrell & Karen Clark Sheard/EMI
1996 “Don’t Give Up” by The Island Inspirational All-Stars/Island
1995 “When Sunday Comes” by Daryl Coley & the Tri-City Singers/Crystal Rose