Over the last half dozen years, Earnest Pugh has established himself as Gospel Music’s Leading Man with soul stirring, #1 radio smashes such as “Rain On Us” and “I Need Your Glory” that also hit the Adult R&B Airplay charts. Now, he’s joining the ranks of Johnny Mathis, Mahalia Jackson and Nat “King” Cole by creating one of this year’s most highly anticipated holiday albums, “Christmas with Earnest Pugh & Friends” (EPM Music Group/$15.98 MSRP). Advance CD reviews are sparkling. Gospel Today Magazine calls it a “must have” and The Black Gospel Blog’s Bob Marovich writes that, “Pugh possesses a handsome baritone voice that can caress a song and sanctify it at the same time.”
Over the last week, EPM Music Group has staged four highly successful CD listening parties where all of the songs on the CD were performed by the EPM roster before ecstatic audiences of gospel fans in markets such as Houston and Washington, D.C. As a result, the CD has debuted at #2 on Billboard’s prestigious Top Gospel Albums chart – the second Top Ten release on the EPM label. The album has also hit #18 on the Independent Albums chart and #84 on the Top 200 Albums chart. The buzz has been so pervasive on the project that Pugh has been added to syndicated radio personality Cory “Coco Brother” Condrey’s upcoming “Christmas with The Condreys” ten-city tour that is still in the routing stage.
The fourteen-track set marks Pugh’s first time sitting in the producer’s chair and he shares the mic with some of his best and most talented friends in the music biz. The initial radio single, “Ring Dem Bells”, a rousing mid-tempo ballad features impassioned backing vocals by Charles Butler & Trinity. A soulful “Silent Night” features the smooth tenor of Quadrius Salters. Baritone Keith Williams joins Pugh on “Holy 2 U” while powerhouse soprano Chrystal Rucker does a majestic rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” with a simple piano arrangement. Lisa Knowles of the Brown Sisters and Pugh trade adlibs on a churchy rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful”. Vincent Tharpe & Kenois create a warm and cozy groove on “Go Tell It” while newcomer Martha Buries brings a jazzy vibe to Ann McCrary’s “Remember Not 2 Forget”. Veteran vocalist Nikki Ross sits us down on the front pew of a Sunday morning church service to deliver a dramatic version of “Walk in the Light”.
Christmas music has always been a staple in Pugh’s home. “With very little money and twelve kids – music was all we had when I was growing up,” he remembers. “Our household was filled with love, music and good food during the holidays. This CD is near and dear to my heart because it was one of the final requests that my mother made just prior to passing away on New Year’s Eve 2006, that I make a Christmas CD. The concept of the CD catches me interacting with some kids during a choir rehearsal to prepare them to go caroling throughout the neighborhood”. There are currently plans in the works for a 10-city Christmas with Earnest Pugh Tour that would also feature EPM Music Group artists such as Vincent Tharpe & Kenosis, Chrystal Rucker and Keith Williams. For more information on EPM and its various projects, visit www.epmmusicgroup.com.
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Take a listen to clips from “Christmas w/ Earnest Pugh & Friends”. Which one is your favorite?
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