"I don't sing," confesses Latice Crawford, "I testify to a beat." True to her words, Crawford's debut record for RCA Inspiration Records is more than just a collection of songs. Rather, it's her testimony spread over 10 different tacks built upon the fresh innovative sounds of groundbreaking drum patterns and percussions. This record is fresh sounding that it avoids the perennial trappings of just being yet another Gospel release. This may be why the judges of BET's hit series Sunday Best were able to be so memorized by Crawford as she wowed the crowds week after week. Though spirited siren came out third on the show's second season, she has had left a distinctive impression on the judges and the audience. Three years have passed and those who have been waiting for this disc to drop can breathe a sign of jubilation now because this eponymous effort doesn't disappoint. Instead of trying to charter herself as the next Gospel diva by choking the record with sure-fire radio hits, Crawford has gone for the heart. Co-writing all the tracks here, these songs tell her testimony in bite sizes how God has healed her from the sufferings of social anxiety disorder.
Produced by Bruce Robinson (Justin Bieber, Ron Isley & Britney Spears) and Denarius 'Motesart' Motes (Nelly Furtado & Celine Dion), this album defies any genre domestication. "I'd Feel Alive," for instance, opens with just the stroking of the acoustic guitar and Crawford smoky alto that venture her into a folky terrain. While many Gospel artists feel a need to show off their expressive sky reaching howls, Crawford shows that she can be equally affective with her restrained and understated passion. Then on the Mary Mary-like "Break Loose," Crawford breaks loose with her glorious churchy runs that will get us on our feet thrashing the devil and worshipping Jesus in no time. And if you are into some finger snapping traditional call and response Gospel, look no farther than the ultra catchy "Oh Yes He Is."
Autobiography makes its way into "Back to You." An emotionally stark piano ballad, "Back to You" (easily the best song on the disc) came from a dark season when Crawford was running away from God. As a matter of making her songs palatable to our contemporary culture, it's really brings a smile when Crawford likens God to a GPS. More of her own story shows up in "Through It All." Co-written during a time when Crawford's home in Atlanta burnt down and she had to relocate to New York, you can feel Crawford's heart when she sings: "In the midst of a storm, after you fall. Don't be afraid, he's right there loving you through it all." And with "Joshua's Anthem" --- a song inspired by Crawford's son Joshua --- Crawford packs the song with expositional gems from the Biblical book that bears the same titular.
In an age of hero worship, where directors are fighting to helm the next super hero movie, Crawford rightly brings us back to the Superman of all Galactic heroes, Jesus Christ. The groovy blues drenched mid-tempo single, "There" finds Crawford reminding us that "rain or shine... just when I need you... like a superhero, right on time to make a way, you're right there." Crawford's eponymous debut, in sum, is a testimony of faith in Jesus Christ punctuated into 10 tracks. Yet, binding them together are tunes that refuses to be gene-tagged, yet they charter on the grooviest drum beats. And when Crawford testifies through these songs, she sure doesn't miss a single beat.