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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Paved the Way

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Sep
Paved the Way
Sounds like … The Clara Ward Singers, The Highway QCs, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, The Dixie Hummingbirds, and other classic gospel vocal groups.At a glance … not a smash comeback by any means, but Paved the Way is still certainly mindful of The Caravans' place in gospel music history.Track Listing Paved the Way
All the Way
Show Some Sign
Mary Don't You Weep
God Fixed It
Holy Ghost
Be Done
No Coward Soldier
Living in a World (Where There Is No Sin)
Jesus Is the Best Thing
God Will Supply
Remember Me
Christ Is Coming Back

Any gospel artist who dares title their album Paved the Way to refer to self rather than God has some serious 'splainin' to do. But The Caravans can probably pull it off. The legendary vocal group isn't just a true pioneer in the realm of all-female gospel ensembles, but it also became a launching pad for scores of would-be gospel stars, including Shirley Caesar, Albertina Walker, and even pianist James Cleveland, among many others. The Caravans paved the way indeed.

After a decades-long hiatus from recording-they've had a few reunion concerts here and there, including one at the 2006 Stellar Awards-the old-time quartet is back on the shelves with the Grammy-nominated Paved the Way. But don't think of the album as the smash comeback of the year. While it's true that Paved the Way is the quartet reunion of the moment, it's as purist a traditional gospel recording can be—no glitz, no glamour, no flashiness, no showstoppers … just The Caravans in a concert setting. No more, no less.

That's a slight disappointment, because The Caravans do deserve the big party, the red-carpet affair, the star-studded black-tie event—you know, like the pageants Verity usually throws for its big-name artists. It's only fitting: "We've paaaaaaved the way," says member Dorothy Norwood in the title track. But instead, the event was recorded modestly at Walker's home church, at a closed session, with just the right amount of musicians and only a few people in attendance.

Despite the demureness of it all, The Caravans take charge of the proceedings with poise, blazing through a baker's dozen of new tracks ("God Fixed It," "Jesus Is the Best Thing") and classics ("Mary Don't You Weep," "No Coward Soldier") as if it were 1958. The singers sound weathered and worn, but Walker's smoky alto still captivates, Norwood couldn't get any churchier, Inez Andrews is still a wailer, and Delores Washington remains as classy as ever. It's obvious The Caravans haven't gone anywhere.

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