Reverend Yolanda’s Country Gospel Kirtan Vol.1 God Is (Album Review)
One of the more unusual CDs to come across my desk in the past few whiles is Rev. Yolanda’s Country Gospel Kirtan vol.1 God Is. Recorded at Eastern Mountain Studios and produced by Mighty Companion Ministries, I listened to this CD an even twenty times to try to get the most out of it. Perhaps I was expecting Alan Jackson singing the great hymns of the faith like “Power in The Blood”, or “When The Roll is Called Up Yonder.”….Not!
What this album is is a collection of original songs by a talented singer and guitar player. To call it country is a stretch, because there is no twang to the vocals or rural tension to the harmonies and the accompanying instrumentation of some of the numbers are too ethereal to really fit that genre at all.
To call it “Gospel” might mean that it has religious phases and inflections that mimic Christianity, but the Rev. Yolanda’s gospel is a far cry from the gospel of the bible. The religious statements bare a greater resemblance to Ekenkar than to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or even Jesus, for that matter.
The first track is “Light & Love” displays the Revs great range of voice. It is full of warbles and affectations, for sure, whispers leading to crescendos, complete with a chorus borrowed from the local AME congregation. The second song, “Love Divine” is a very pretty run through the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, and to my ears is the highlight of the CD. It deviates from the biblical concept of “by His stipes we were healed”, preferring instead to substitute the concept that “I can heal myself.”
“Sweet, Sweet Spirit” is a duet with Rev. Chandra Rule, penned to the tune of the children’s spiritual “Jesus Loves Me.” “Heaven’s within me, this I know, for Life’s teachings tell me so” is the refrain. Song #4 , “Home” has a nice bounce to it, telling us that rather than a heaven beyond the stars, home is a place within ourselves that never changes. Next comes “Free Your Mind”, with a gentle banjo plucking sound that does give it a country feeling.
The sound changes to a more eastern sounding, ( Is that a synthetic Sitar I hear?) “You Are An Idea(in the mind of God” The song has a definite “Acid Rock” vibe. A welcoming pedal steel line opens “We Are Angels” and the phrase repeats itself throughout the song. “Let Things Be” is a snappy up-tempo sing along number with a call and respond harmony, promising if we let things be, we’ll all live in peace and harmony.
“I Can See Peace” is a bluegrass tune that would have fit well into the Dillards’ repertoire. It’s got an intriguing fiddle and mandolin break. “I Love Myself” strikes me a narcissistic rant, and by the tenth time I listened to the CD, I found myself skipping this one. “Freedom” might go over better with the Control/Alt/Delete crowd than with the country gospel folks.
The recording is completed with the title track, “God Is” featuring a tasty harmonica intro. It praises God for being a constant companion, backed by bluesy licks and a merry banjo.
Evangelical Christians aren’t likely to get much out of Rev. Yolanda’s offering. I doubt any of the numbers will make it into the Southern Baptist Hymnal, but they should go over well in a Universalist gathering. Good vocals, nice backing musical work from Freddy Freeman make it pleasant enough listening but I think it will be a while before I play it for the 21st time.