Prime Cuts: Mender of Me, Higher, Not Alone
If Cece Winans and Yolanda Adams ever disciple a protégé, it has to be Benita Farmer. Possessing a suave R&B ease, Farmer like Winans and Adams has an inviting way of drawing even non-believers to her sonic palette without sounding threatening or "church-y." Her rich yet jazzy alto calls to mind soul divas such as Chante Moore and to some extend Sade. Vocally, Farmer has an agility that soothes yet she also possess an undercurrent in her voice that showcases her grit and strength which come across as confident and assuring. Yet, when it comes to her songs, they are uncompromising Jesus-besotted through and through. Never missing a beat, this collection of 10 songs are glowingly Christ-centered and Biblically informed.
Hailed from Philadelphia, Farmer has deep familial musical roots. Her mother is none other than Gospel music phenomenon Bishop Barbara WardFarmer. Despite being a respected vocalist, one of Benita's greatest joys has been collaborating with her brother Lawrence Farmer IV. The work of the brother and sister duo has brought their music to the national spotlight winning rave reviews and praise from fans and music critics alike. Further, Farmer has been a music educator for 14 years. Benita counts this as one of her most rewarding experiences. She has impacted and inspired thousands of children in the depressed area of Camden, New Jersey. "Mender of Me" is apparently Farmer's debut record for DREAM Gospel records where she shares the roster with artists such as Jason Wright, Andre Helms, Jarvis Mays and others.
Without domesticating the record, but if one is to describe the prevalent sound of this album, it has to be R&B enriched Gospel. Farmer is at her best when she croons a soulful ballad. In this regard, she's heavenly on the title cut "Mender of Me." A heartfelt keys-driven ballad, the words cut deep into one's soul as Farmer sings about God's healing in our brokenness. "Get to the root of me/ Release it from me/ The things that keep me falling/ Living in brokenness/ And that is why/ I turn to the Mender of me." "Not Alone" has a throwback sound to the Quiet Storm days of the 90s, where Farmer reminds us of our God's abiding presence even in our most fearful times. Dabbling in some jazzy Sade excursus is the Luke 15-based "He's Not Far Away."
Though soulful R&B Gospel is the record's sonic identity, she is not afraid to broach into more adventurous terrains. Giving Papa San a run for his money is the Jamaican-flavored "I Love You Lord." The flamenco beat with make us want to get out of our seats and dance along. "Higher" is a song with the word "hit" stamped all across it. A pop-sounding gem; this song rightly gets us to focus on Jesus when life wears us out. While the splash of electric guitars give "Journey" a rock sound. "Make a Way," though it is quite choppy in its melodic construction, has an EDM undercurrent that updates the sound to today's dance music.
Thus, if you are looking for a Gospel album rich with soulful R&B and other variegated touches, look no farther than "Mender of Me."
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