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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Broken

  • reviewed by LaTonya Taylor Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Nov
  • COMMENTS
Broken
Sounds like … a blend of pop-gospel, funky R&B, and worship songsAt a Glance … Hobbs jokes that he should have called this album "Groovin' Worship" — half are his signature retro blend of funk and R&B, the others more praise-and-worship.

I first heard Darwin Hobbs's Vandross-smooth vocals about six years ago on a radio commercial for a chain of fast-food chili parlors based in Cincinnati. At the time, Hobbs had just moved from the Queen City to Nashville to pursue a career in gospel music. Even in that 30-second spot , where Hobbs sang an ode to chili based on The Platters' 1944 hit "Twilight Time," his potential was evident.

Hobbs's rapid ascent in the worlds of R&B-flavored gospel and praise-and-worship music is a testament to what a talented artist with a calling, determination, and solid connections (in the past he's worked with Fred Hammond, Victor and Cedric Caldwell, Tommy Sims and Positive Movement, Angie Winans, Donna Summer, Michael McDonald, and Virtue) can become. It's nice to see a fellow former Cincinnatian make good.

His third solo album, Broken, demonstrates the how and why of that success. Like 1999's Mercy and 2000's Vertical, Broken is a mix of Hobbs' trademark "churban" ("church-meets-urban") tunes and reflective praise-and-worship songs that showcases the diversity of his skills. Hobbs makes his debut as a writer with "Nobody Like Jesus," a pop-gospel duet with fellow EMI artist Shirley Murdock. Hobbs and Murdock hold their own but blend artfully in soaring, harmonious ad-libs in this song based on a common phrase. Although the brief spoken-word segment feels out of place, this song is a nice, personal reflection on God's goodness.

"Unexplainable," a bass-heavy, head-bobbable R&B number contributed by Tommy Sims (who produces several tracks on this album), describes the writer's dissatisfaction with "church language" as he tries to express his deep feelings for God. Lyrics include: "Holy Holy, but that won't do it / Glory in the highest, that won't do it / Doctor in the sickbed, that won't do it / Lawyer in the trial room, but that won't do it / Rock and a strong tower, but that didn't quite do it / Lily of the valley, but now that won't do it / Nothing I can find will ever quite do it." Musically, the combination of bass guitar, synthesizer and churchy organ explore this combination of new and old.

Similarly, "The Light" uses themes from "This Little Light of Mine" to tell the story of a man's attempts to apply his Sunday school lesson to situations he faces as an adult: This danceable song has a 1970s soul feel, from the thumping bass and wah-wah guitars to the synth voice and "party" sounds throughout. "The Thank You Song" is another fun, funky cut.

"Against the World," a smooth, easy song, describes the confidence Christians have with God as friend and partner. And "Beautiful to Me," Hobbs' tribute to his wife Traci, will no doubt become a standard at Christian weddings. Hobbs displays the smooth, passionate style that results in the inevitable comparison to Luther Vandross. Here, he croons richly that his wife, a childhood friend, was "my first love, first kiss, first touch, first smile / The first to know my fears and never ask why" in a song that will be welcome in the growing genre of Christian romantic music.

Praise-and-worship tracks include "Praz Him," which begins with an urgent call to worship, and "You Are God," which sounds a bit like the classic praise song "I Will Bless The Lord" and includes a reverent, choral-sounding portion of "Holy, Holy Holy." Both feature a corps of smart, polished background vocals (a hallmark of Hobbs' music).

"Break Me/Draw Me" is Hobbs' soft, passionate plea for God's humbling yet restorative touch on his life. Gentle keys and subtle acoustic guitar give this song an intimate, devotional quality. And "We Worship You Today" showcases Hobbs' gift as a worship leader. With memorable choruses that include "We Worship You Today," "We Honor You Today," and "We Love You Today," this song is one that will reach a large audience by virtue of its placement on this album.

With his versatility as evident as the niche he's created for himself, it's clear that Hobbs' success is more than a flash in the pan. Sorry Cincinnati chili lovers — Darwin's not quitting his day job anytime soon.


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