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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Inside Out

  • reviewed by LaTonya Taylor Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Apr
Inside Out
Sounds like … a blend of gospel-infused, guitar-based R&B/pop for fans of artists as diverse as Anointed, Christopher Lewis, Chris Willis and India ArieAt a glance … introspective lyrics and Starling's stellar vocals make his debut a satisfying listenTrack ListingAll God's ChildrenCarried AwaySome DaysThereI Can Do ThisFreeCrazy LoveFaithfulHe's a Part of MeWorship & PraiseHoly SpiritLord We Have ComeWorship & Praise (reprise)

Duawne Starling's resume reads like a veritable Who's Who in gospel music. Since he started singing professionally about 10 years ago, he's contributed background vocals for artists as diverse as CeCe Winans, Nicole C. Mullen, Donnie McClurkin and Fred Hammond—as well as Dolly Parton, Michael McDonald and Kelly Price. He's probably best known for penning the title song "With This Ring" for the 2001 compilation wedding CD of the same name.

Starling's solo debut, Inside Out, demonstrates the versatility behind the classically-trained artist's quiet longevity with a collection of gospel-infused pop tunes. It opens with "All God's Children," a funky, bass-and-organ-driven song with Starling showing off his upper range with the playfully shrieked "Soul!" in the background. Lyrics include: "It's not your colored skin/But something deep within/That makes us unified/Red yellow black or white/It's time you realized/That all God's children got soul." The song features a fun children's chorus toward the end.

"Carried Away" starts softly, then builds to an intense celebration of Christ's return. Starling seems to exercise proper restraint here; he could really punch the song's climax with a power-pop-styled crescendo, but he correctly senses that there's no need to blow the listener from her seat. The influence of producers Drew Ramsey and Shannon Sanders (India Arie) is evident in "Some Days," a song about the ups and downs of marriage written for Starling's wife. Its pleasant poignancy is similar to Arie's "Good Man" from 2002's Voyage to India.

The guitar-based "There" features simple two-part harmony and a light, lilting vocal. The sounds of birds chirping softly in the background and gentle finger snaps give the sense of an open-air acoustic performance on a warm day. "I Can Do This," powerful with poignant piano, is distinctive because it is the only song Starling wrote on this CD specifically for his own encouragement. It conveys a determination to depend on God, with lyrics like "I can be the one I've intended/The one that You need Lord/I can go beyond every circumstance/When I'm down on my knees." If you've missed hearing Chris Willis since his self-titled solo debut, the intimate drama of this song will remind you of "Home." Such comparisons don't mean that Starling doesn't have his own sound; it's just that you can hear why he's been able to work with so many different people. His voice is an instrument he can adapt for a particular style or song.

Perhaps the album's most gripping song is "Crazy Love," a gospel/R&B track based on Romans 8:38-39: "They say it's crazy that you chase someone who keeps running out the door/They say its crazy that you would rescue me just like you did before/They say this crazy love just has to be from heaven up above/God I thank you 'cause I need this crazy love." A close second is "He's A Part of Me," Starling's tribute to the father he lost at the age of seven. The honesty in these two songs is characteristic of the insightful, introspective lyrics throughout the CD.

"Worship and Praise" is a simple praise and worship song, and "Holy Spirit" features a Richard Smallwood piano arrangement and powerful strings that accentuate Starling's desperate plea for God's presence and power in his ministry. A choir backs Starling on "Lord We Have Come," a beautiful, worshipful song that hints at the sounds of saints praising God forever in heaven.

Though many of the songs tend to have a light, acoustic feel, making them sound a bit similar, there's enough variety to make the overall album a satisfying listen. Inside Out also has great "crossover" potential—it will make a nice addition to any Christian pop or gospel music library. After 10 years relatively behind the scenes, it's a treat to finally hear a full album of Starling on his own terms.