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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

This Is Who I Am

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Sep
This Is Who I Am
Sounds like … Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Monica, Lisa McClendon, and other R&B songstresses with slight gospel inclinationsAt a glance … a deliberate gospel debut, but one with enough R&B charm to attract Kelly Price's old fans as well as win her a whole new constituency. Track Listing This Is Who I Am Heaven's Best The Warning God Is Faithful God Is Not Dead Just As I Am What a Friend Get Up and Praise I Can't Turn Back Healing Nobody but Jesus

Backward crossovers can be tricky. It's not uncommon for artists to return to their "gospel roots," as recently evidenced by Alan Jackson and Brian Littrell. But oddly enough, a great deal gets lost in the transition: inspiration, creativity, personality, even the artist's own identity. Often this new, sanctified phase just isn't even as musically interesting as the secular one. Fortunately, R&B starlet Kelly Price circumvents this with her first full-on gospel album, This Is Who I Am.

You may remember Price made a name for herself singing backup for Mariah Carey, appearing on hits by Diddy and the Notorious B.I.G., and eventually scoring chart-toppers of her own. But as the title of her gospel debut attests, faith-based music is where she belongs, not the sultry hip-hop hooks of her past. As if trying to distance herself as much as possible from her history, she's recorded a live album, a well-produced set that possesses all the elements of your average contemporary gospel venture—and then some.

From the song titles to the guest appearances (Donnie McClurkin, Richard Smallwood, Vanessa Bell Armstrong) and even the album photography (in one of the shots, she is wearing a studded leather belt that reads "SAVED"), Price goes to great lengths to let the whole world know what she's about. As such, This Is Who I Am may be a little too deliberate in its attempts at winning over skeptics—and Lord knows there are quite a few of them in gospel circles. But at least it hits the spot as far as live recordings go.

Producer Shep Crawford (Luther Vandross, Heather Headley) is an R&B veteran, so he makes sure to not get too churchy, giving Price enough soulful grooves to coast on. But even when he does wax traditional, as in the testimonial "God Is Faithful," he sets the right mood, giving Price ample room to shine. It's a strange juxtaposition, but for the most part, the singer pulls it off. She may not be all there yet as a gospel writer—her excessive Christianese makes it sound like she's trying hard to prove a point—but cut the girl some slack: she's only getting started.

© Andree Farias, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.