Heather Headley Audience of One Album Review

Part One

 

Seems like these days, most artists that make Christian music attempt to cover up their message under blankets of guitar or waves of keyboards and horns. Because of that, the popularity of Christian rock is at an all-time high.

However, the end result sounds a lot like pop music, made to go down smooth and easy on the palettes of its listeners, while keeping the artists from being deemed as “too pushy” with their attitudes towards religion.

On the other hand, there are still a number of artists that have no convictions about shouting out the spirituality that lies inside their hearts, regardless of what the music-listening public at large thinks.

One of those artists is the lovely Heather Headley.

And Headley has crafted one touching love letter to the man upstairs with her third solo release, titled Audience of One.

From the out-set, Headley leaves no doubt as to who that “One” is. This is a gospel album, pure and simple.

And it’s one that should add another impressive paragraph to the Trinidadian-born Headley’s already impressive resume.

Not only blessed with a set of amazing pipes, Headley is also a gifted songwriter, producer and Tony Award winning actress.

She won the 2000 Tony Award for best actress for her portrayal of the title character in Aida. This was after she got her feet wet on the Broadway stage by playing Nala in The Lion King musical.

Audience of One is all about Headley’s golden soprano singing the praises of The Lord. And that’s something she has done since she was a little girl and her father was a preacher, first in her native Trinidad, then later in Indiana, where the family moved when Heather was 15.

"He Is"

Part Two

 

Fans of Headley’s first two discs might be caught a bit off-guard by the subject matter on Audience of One, but given the chance, the disc is one that should fit comfortably next to her other catalog. Because after all, once Headley starts singing, the disc moves along like a contemporary R&B release. A very good contemporary R&B release.

“I Know the Lord Will Make a Way” is a track that should receive a lot of attention of the album. It’s the most “southern gospel-sounding” cut on Audience of One and hopefully will find its way into regular rotation on the radio. Spiked with a smoky shot of Delta Blues, “I Know the Lord Will Make a Way” is guaranteed to make you testify on Sunday morning after a hard night at the juke joints on Saturday.

“Jesus is Love” is more traditional-sounding gospel and is backed with the kind of choir that could power a freight train all by itself. After all, the church choir is where real gospel music sprang from and Headley uses it to her full advantage here.

Another highlight of the disc is the “I Need Thee/Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus/I’d Rather Have Jesus” medley. This is a textbook example of how to build a song. The medley starts out with just minimal backing  accompaniment, giving Headley’s sweet voice plenty of room to stretch out. And stretch out it does. As the tune heads to its finale, the strings begin to soar and the intensity picks up. Still, Headley is in total command and raises her vocals to match the crescendo of the closing moments. This is just the kind of breathtaking performance that earned Headley a Tony Award.

Speaking of Tonys, “I Wish” is a tender ballad that could have came straight off the Broadway stage, pulled out of a block-buster play.

It should not come as a surprise, then, that Audience of One has plenty of moments that are Broadway-inspired. Who knows – Audience of One might just be the perfect soundtrack for a smash Broadway play. With Headley as the lead role, of course.

The real charm of Audience of One is Headley’s stellar voice, a powerful instrument all to itself. The material on her latest disc is certainly strong stuff, but then again, Headley would probably sound good signing the classified ad section out of any daily newspaper.

Inspired, powerful and up-lifting, Audience of One should be a true contender for the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Award for Contemporary Gospel Album of the Year.

Regardless of how many awards it wins, it’s a sure bet that Heather Headley won’t have any problems letting the world know just how she feels.

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