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Family Prayer

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Jun
Family Prayer
Sounds like … family-based gospel groups such as the Staple Singers and the Hawkins Family, but performed in the neo-classic context of Donald Lawrence, the Clark Sisters, and BeBe & CeCe WinansAt a glance … The Murrills hit the ground running with this surprisingly varied debut, easily one of the more developed, surefooted introductions in contemporary gospel this yearTrack Listing One Mo' Time: Intro Better Friend of Mine Family (There's a Healing) Long Time Comin' (Holdin' On) Words and Rhythm How I Feel About You Siyahamba (Janie's Song) I Declare War Be the One Don't Let Me Fall Survive Intro: Roger Good Days, Bad Days Can You Stand the Rain? I Will Wait One Mo' Time: Outro

After a number of delays, The Murrills are finally seeing the release of their Verity Records debut, but now that it's here, the wait seems to be warranted. For a first outing, the disc is truly something different, and so well put-together, it sounds more like a group's sixth offering, not their first.

Part of that is surely attributable to the fact that the sextet—siblings Roger, Arnetta, Donnell, Andre, Darwin, and Damion—have been singing together for a lifetime; you had better sound tight after singing with your family for more than two decades. They owe it all to their mother Janie, who motivated them to sing individually or in teams for as long as they can remember.

Also responsible for the album's completeness is producer and label sponsor Donald Lawrence, with whom The Murrills have been singing since his Tri-City Singers days. Some people may remember them from Lawrence's I Speak Life album, where The Murrills performed the soulful "Better." A new version of that song is included on Family Prayer, and it happens to be a good barometer for the singers' style—a neo-classicist blend of slick, family-honed harmonies and '70s R&B, plus a bit of modern urban soul for good measure.

It's a really nice balance—not too churchy, not too contemporary, a happy medium between old and new. The few gospelized instances, like the dramatic first single "Family," seem rather obligatory, but luckily the Murrills don't dwell on them too much, sticking to throwback jams like "Don't Let Me Fall," "Good Days Bad Days," and "Friend of Mine."

The Clark Sisters' ultra-polished Live—One Last Time proved Lawrence to be a post-production perfectionist, but not so with The Murrills: he lets them have their fun as they coast effortlessly on the tracks, some of them so old-school they sound as if they were recorded on analog gear.

If you've lost faith in recent contemporary gospel offerings, give The Murrills a chance. It's one of the freshest, classic-sounding-yet-modern gospel discs you'll hear this year.

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