It's finally here! Just over a week ago Chicago's own Shanta Gray released her debut project! Her name/voice became a regular on many favorite gospel songs by artists out of Chicago starting back in the 1990s. Even though Shanta began at an early age singing and sharing her talents, her voice became most noticeable when she took the lead on a few singles by Chicago Mass, New Direction, and Praise II choirs. Jams like New D's "New Revelation", "Come in the House", "Heaven", and "By Grace" all featured that unique but powerful voice on lead.
Here we are years later after sowing countless seeds into the musical efforts of others, and she is finally ready to present her own sound to the world. Her first offering, The Blood is a collection of songs with a broad range of different sounds and concepts. With such a rich history, some probably felt like they knew where Shanta would go with this album. They were wrong. Not only does she present the popular church sound that we knew she could deliver, but as an artist she definitely stretched herself beyond her comfort zone.
From the door, "UR" is something different. It reaches into a vibe that most wouldn't expect from what they know of an artist like Shanta. As the groove gets really good on the jam, Shanta breaks into what can be described as a bit of spoken word, or a rap verse even depending on how you're listening to it!! Totally shocked me, but in the best way. "I Just Want to Thank You" follows the very non traditional "UR" with a very traditional quartet feel that I know many will love.The next song, "I Can't Imagine" is a jam. It's simply proclaiming that moment you realize just how vital God's love is in your life. It's definitely the soul groove of the record.
"Never Let Me Down" comes through as the jazz swing offering on the project. Yes, she gets a little jazzy! It's fun and refreshing. The title track, The Blood stands out from the beginning. It's simple, but powerful message is delivered in a way that mirrors that message spot on. It'll definitely be one that stands out. One of my personal favorites is the super energetic and uplifting, "Make a Way".
Released as the lead single from the freshman project, "MAW" is the epitome of everything good about a good church bump. If you know anything about the black church experience, the church bump (shouting music) is a huge part of that experience. Mainstream radio is all into the record because it really does feel like that good shouting moment in church. Be careful with this one when driving or using heavy machinery..you might need a minute.
"Make a Way" is followed by a remix to one of the first songs Chicago radio ever heard Shanta on, "By Grace". Let me tell you it's just as good 20 years later as it was the first time I heard it as a child. "Give You All the Praise" is a very simple worship song. The delivery is so sweet that you don't even realize you're repeating the same phrase over and over for an entire song. As she explains it's definitely a song you can sing anywhere at anytime. "Song of Praise" is an upbeat praise song that is the perfect contrast in sound to "Give You All the Praise". This section of the album will definitely be a fave of praise teams around the world.
"Play Your Song" is another one of my personal favorites. It deals with a concept that I've always felt strongly about. Our lives as Christians should be a sweet song to God. It's not so much about what we say, but how we actually live. It's not only a super sweet message, but it's beautifully arranged. The song that follows it, "My Reward" was a fan favorite at the release party. I saw so many posts on social media about it. It's a great groove, and another sound most wouldn't expect from Shanta. For "I Worship", Gray connects with gospel choir New Direction once more. It's definitely the sound we've come to expect from their collaborations.
My favorite record on this album comes in the form of a traditional gospel song I've been hearing my whole life. On I Decided (To Make Jesus My Choice), Shanta goes back to her roots. She really goes back to what started it all. She's joined by her siblings my other aunts, uncles, and my Daddy Pastor Frank McSwain, Sr. to create a sound that only they can make together. When I hear them sing together I finally understand the blend people say my siblings and I have together. I personally love picking out their unique, but incredibly blended voices throughout the song. Love!
The album rounds out with We Worship You, another simple but perfect offering about reverencing God. Praise teams and even choirs will love this powerful song about corporate worship.
From a music lovers stand point I really dig the versatility displayed on this album. Shanta is a gospel singer at her core. She can church you to heaven and back. For her to take the risk of pushing herself to explore so many different sounds and approaches on her first solo presentation is more than commendable. From a personal standpoint I'm just overwhelmingly proud of my TT (yall don't know how hard it was to write her name as Shanta on this post! lol). We've always had a pretty special relationship. Other than hearing that I look like her my whole life, she's always made it her business to actually be in my life which is always sweet on an Auntie's part.
Does The Blood deliver everything I expected from my TT's debut album? The answer is no. It simply delivers just a bit more than I expected. Shanta and her team of writers, producers, musicians all came together for a solid freshman effort. I personally can't wait for the next project to drop, but as my TT says, "Right now KK, it's about The Blood!" and I couldn't agree more.
In celebration of the release, KayKiSpeaks.com will gift the album to the first 5 people to share this post on social media. Let me know you want it, and it'll be sent to you today! Available on iTunes now!