If one word could be used to describe Denita Gibbs, it is the word versatility. Few artists can straddle between the tradition and the contemporary sides of Gospel music with such ease as Gibbs. Gibbs has the uncanny ability to draw the church in with her dynamic shout-outs in the glorious traditions of Yolanda Adams, Dorinda Clark-Cole and Kim Burrell. However, instead of relegating the contemporary likes of hip hop, rap and R&B as music from the pits, Gibbs shows that there is room for Jesus Christ even in the furores of rap. Ambitiously, alongside her traditional odes, you will find Gibbs dabbling in Jesus-exalting rap, hip hop and modern R&B/pop on her new record "Without You." A further testament to Gibbs' versatility is that she co-wrote or wrote all of the songs (save for the vanguard single "Nothing Better than You"). Gibbs, for the unacquainted, is a worship leader at Faith Apostolic Church in Birmingham. Though "Without You" is her sophomore effort, this is her first release under the Audiostate 55 Entertainment imprint. Instrumental to the creation of this record is the guiding hand of the president of Audiostate 55 Entertainment Dr. Henry Panion III. Dr. Panion III has been known for his work with stalwarts such as Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Carrie Underwood, the Winans and Kurt Carr.
Pallbearers who think that big piano ballads that have carved a career for Whitney Houston and Celine Dion have died and were buried would be surprised to hear the title cut "Without You." A majesty love song of dependence on Jesus, "Without You" showcases what a stellar singer Gibbs is. The ceiling high notes, the elongated syllables, the soaring melisma are all intact in order to bring out our dependency on Jesus Christ. Shifting gears to some fresh sounding dance beats is the co-producer Daniel Mosley penned "Nothing Better Than You;" a sizzling contemporary slice of Christian-pop radio would just wallow in. And the grooves get funkier with album opener "Joy." Despite sounding like a track Rihanna would covet, "Joy" tells of the joyous returns of casting our cares on Jesus Christ. If anyone ever stereo types Gospel music as dated and out of sync with today's music, "I Got a Right" which even features rapping will blow all scaffolds of such domestication into smithereens.
Yet, traditionalists do not need to feel threatened; "Let It Rain" brings Gibbs back to church. Featuring those gorgeous harmonies we have grown to love from Gospel groups such as Trin-i-tee, "Let It Rain" is an old school worship number that will get us worshipping along. While on "Encounter" Gibbs slips into some R&B slow grooves as she expresses her yearning to meet with God. The earnestness she brings in her plea for God's presence is palpable. Taking a detour into the jazzy lounge style is "Arise." Featuring some haunting piano tingling and finger snapping beats, Gibbs takes her time to encourage us not to give up in times when things are going south. Gibbs shows she has moxie when she charges out with that bold confidence in God in the midst of impossibilities with the dance stomper "Making a Way."
Often you will get an artist who excels with flying colors within her choice of genre. But rarely will you get someone who can cross pollinate with such success across various genres and styles. And thanks to Audiostate 55 Entertainment's foresight to partner with Warner Brothers music to take their releases to a broader national platform, mark my words, Gibbs will soon be a household name.