The all-female African-American a cappella gospel quintet, Sweet Honey in the Rock has been making music that touches the heart and speaks to the soul for more than four decades.
With the release of their 24th album, “#LoveinEvolution” the ensemble that features Louise Robinson, Carol Maillard, Aisha Kahlil, Nitanju Bolade Casel, and Shirley Childress (American Sign Language interpreter) takes listeners on a journey that is part spiritual trek, part social commentary.
At first blush, “#LoveInEvolution” is a rich eclectic mix of the group’s original songs along with breathtaking covers of popular classics. The 14-track album is laced with Sweet Honey in the Rock’s unique, rapturous blend of jazz, blues, soul, gospel, and African chants. Hands- down the group has mastered the art of a capella musicianship. They breathe new life into already compelling songs such as Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology).”
“Second Line Blues” is melodious, yet haunting. Led by Nitanju Bolade Casel, the song starts off as a historical recap recalling past injustices, but the song takes a chilling turn as it reaches modern day as Casel recites the names of those who will be forever etched in the annals of time…Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, the Charleston Massacre, Sandy, Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech. The list continues on for an uneasy length of time, driving home the harsh reality of modern times.
Make no mistake, although the album is socially conscious, those forays are sandwiched between upbeat songs that uplift the soul, including the joyful, foot-tapping, “IDK, But I’m LOL!” and the romantic ditty, “Same Ol,’ Same Ol Love.”
Sweet Honey in the Rock has delivered another masterpiece. Their voices skillfully traverse the air as the acoustic & electric bass and percussions undergird songs like, Somebody Prayed for Me,” and “Wholy, Holy.” The focus always remains tightly on the real stars of this musical universe: the voices, those rich, harmonious voices that make each song their own.
Early on, the listener is swept into a delightful cacophony of voices that draw them ever deeper into the masterful storytelling. It almost feels like these modern-day griots are performing a private concert for each listener.
The album is rounded out by a few old-school classics like “Operator, Jesus on the Line/I Don’t Know What You Come to Do.” “Sweet, Sweet, Honey” is a spirited chant composed by Aisha Kahlil in celebration of the group’s 40th anniversary. “We’ve Come This Far By Faith” fittingly closes out the album as a reminder that for more than 40 years it is faith that has kept Sweet Honey in the Rock.
“#LoveInEvolution” is available on iTunes and Amazon and the new lyric video, “IDK, But I’m LOL!” is available on YouTube.
Sweet Honey in the Rock kicks off a multi-city tour on February 11. Stops include the Marriott Marquis Hotel Washington, DC on April 18 and the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA on May 15.