19 December 2009

Wilma Ann: "Under the Surface"

One of my collaborators recently wrote about finding music right under your nose that you did not even know was there or expected to find. And this is one of those stories that started with a colleague of mine coming up to me not long ago and saying, “You know Wilma Ann is an incredible vocalist?” And that started my curiosity about Wilma Ann – a humble, soft-spoken colleague, whom I had no idea was a gospel vocalist. And though she was fully aware that I had created this blog, not once did she ever suggest that I should listen to her music – maybe perhaps most of the music here is anything but gospel. But being curious, of course, I had to hear what she was all about. I listened to “Under the Surface” (30 October 2009) and was floored. A soulful, gospel album, I immediately starting thinking about (and listening to again) some of the most soulful vocalists that I have come to love: soul (Etta James) or blue-eyed soul (Annie Lennox) or from neo-soul (Alice Smith). And all I kept thinking is that the cannons of music will have to make space for a new soulful gospel singer, Wilma Ann.

Okay, I know what you are thinking, “Dude, you have never written about or even mentioned gospel music before?” And I will be the first to admit that it is rare that you will catch me listening to gospel, because the reality is that my musical tastes are not informed by political or personal beliefs, but rather by aesthetics. (Of course personal beliefs will affect what you listen to, but not always determine it.) Moreover, I am the first to admit that I do have issues with institutionalized beliefs, regardless if they are political, religious, academic, etc… because I have a problem with anyone or any group claiming absolute authority and people not questioning it. Furthermore, my number one issue with gospel music has been its lack of diversity, intensity, and urgency. And though many will have a problem with the subject matter that Wilma Ann has tackled, you would have to be completely deaf not to take note of the talent and power of her voice.

The album starts with the a cappella “Standing Here”: “I’m just standing here waiting on a miracle,” Wilma Ann sings, and her voice immediately convinces you of her convictions. And that is the thing with so many vocalists today; many can carry a tune, some can even sing, but few can sell you on their convictions. But from the first notes, Wilma Ann not only enraptures you with her infectious voice, she convinces you of her convictions. The track immediately flows into “God First.” Immediately, the feel of this song comes out of left field, leaving you wondering “Is this a gospel song?” as you are grooving to one of the most sensually, funky songs that I have heard in years. But this album is not just a simple reflection on religious beliefs – it is a reflection on everyday life, figuring out where the individual fits into a world that is always rushing by. It is the realization of finding something to hold onto, something to help you through the day, something that fills you with a positive feeling and “the courage to put the past behind” (from “Nothin’ Like You”). This is an album about a journey of self-discovery and humility and the possibilities of the future.

If there is a contemporary, nascent gospel music artist you should take note of, Wilma Ann is the one. For anyone that is a fan of gospel music, you will find that Wilma Ann delivers her music with conviction and the piety one would expect. For those that are not fans of gospel music, you will find the most soulful voice of 2009. For starters, travel over to her MySpace page and take a listen to her music. If you are convinced of that conviction and/or enraptured by her voice, head to CDBaby or DigStation to purchase the CD or download the music (respectively).

Track Listing:
1. Standing Here
2. God First
3. Delirious
4. Nothin’ Like You
5. See Me
6. Hold Me Down
7. He Is
8. Rock the Rock
9. Know You Better
10. Meet the Man
11. Transform Me
12. Stones
13. Center of Your Will
14. Know You Better (Reprise)

Keep up with Wilma Ann at her homepage and MySpace.

1 comment:

  1. This is sooo true! You said this oh so eloquently and precisely ! I have had the opportunity to share precious moments with Wilma Ann as she walked along her journey and her music is indeed purely inspirational each and every time I listen to it! Her voice is very unique an distinct, and I look forward to the days people are jamming to it worldwide while unintentionally getting inspired and motivated to be better and expect more in life! Thanks so much for the blog!