MUSIC REVIEW: @LaticeCrawford (Self-Titled Album)

Sometimes, winning first place simply isn’t everything; that’s the case for burgeoning gospel singer Latice Crawford.  As a contestant on the season two of BET’s Sunday Best, Crawford fell short of the ultimate prize.  Despite this, Crawford still finds herself releasing her debut album, Latice Crawford via RCA Inspiration. Vocally, throughout her ten-track debut, Crawford stuns with her incredibly, rich pipes.

“You Should Know By Now” kicks things off in spirited fashion, making a compelling opening statement.  Sporting funky production work and an ultra syncopated groove, it trends in the contemporary gospel vain, but still appeals to the traditionalists.  Crawford’s vocals are nuanced and smoky in tone, tailor made to deliver a rich gospel performance. “There” proceeds, with ‘contemporary’ cues in play led by its R&B-styled beat.  Even the simple refrain has that modern-R&B feel, appealing to a more youthful base.  The tired and true messaging hasn’t changed.

“Through It All” slows the tempo, following two quicker-paced tracks.  Alongside contrast from quicker to slower, the use of acoustic guitar also contrasts timbre.  Incredibly thoughtful, Crawford provides both oomph and emotion to convey the message, particularly the refrain: “Through the midst of the storm / after you fall / you don’t have to be ashamed / he’s here loving you through it all…” Backing vocals smartly allow Crawford vocal leeway to deliver ad-libs, further enhancing the winning number.  Proceeding “Better” isn’t shabby itself, with ‘optimism’ written all over it.  “You gon’ always have to fight,” the backing vocals sing on the refrain. “But you won’t always have to cry / joy comes in the morning light… everything’s gonna get better.”  Vocally, Crawford rivals Kim Burrell here, particularly where vocal huskiness is concerned.

“Back To You” contains a message of repentance and dedication to God.  Lyrically, it is one of the cleverest songs, highlighted by memorable moments such as “I’m so lost without you as my GPS / Oh Lord I’ve made such a mess…” or unifying refrain “If you let me know what I gotta do / to find my way back to you / and I’ll start running.” Accompanied only by piano, “Back To You” might be the most ‘musical’ moment of Latice Crawford.

“Hear Me” finds Crawford showing off her upper register, highlighting a different part of her voice.  The song itself begins somewhat mysteriously, but settles in on the second verse.  As “Hear Me” progresses, its magic is inescapable.  After two slower, more reflective cuts, “Break Loose” is just what the album ordered – a quick, electrifying praise joint.  The hard beat and punching hits from organ and horns shape exciting, if busy production.  Among the best moments is when backing vocals sing “Clap your hands / stomp your feet / leap for joy”, further inciting Crawford’s passionate pipes.

Crawford doesn’t slow on “Oh Yes He Is”, embracing its bluesy style. Crawford’s vocal aggressiveness – the way she ‘digs in’ – makes “Oh Yes He Is” compelling.  “I’d Feel Alive” and “Joshua’s Anthem” aren’t bad, but also aren’t quite top echelon.  On “I’d Feel Alive”, Crawford shares her lower register, solidifying she’s a full package vocally.  The song’s messaging is excellent, though it feels too drawn out by the end.  “Joshua’s Anthem” is all about ‘winning’, and given that victorious sentiment, it is quite a respectable closing statement.

Overall, Latice Crawford is a fine debut effort from a newbie.  Vocally, Crawford has a tremendous gift that lays well cross these ten tracks perfectly.  The production is soundly executed, and producers smartly aim Crawford as a more contemporary gospel artist who can appeal to a younger audience.  Well done Latice, well done.

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