Bless His Name Live!
There's a message behind the music of local contemporary gospel group A. Terence Brownlee & Approved. A message of faith, encouragement, love and peace. But the inspiration for the group's richly textured blend of subdued soulfulness, urban pop gloss and cool vocal sophistication comes from one place only: God. "The message of the music is multifaceted," Brownlee says. "But that message is a timeless message." For nearly 10 years, Approved has bridged the gap between inspirational gospel music and mainstream urban credibility, wrapping a spiritual message inside the lush arrangements and instrumental textures of R&B. The technique has been more than successful - both with providing inspired musical fusions to longtime fans and bringing Christianity to younger listeners. "The message of the Bible never changes," Brownlee says. "But the way we deliver it should. You have to figure out a way to make the message relevant to this generation. To let them know that's it's OK to be Christian and saved and young and still be cool. The message is a timeless message." Currently, the group - Brownlee, Gina Brooks, Virginia Githiri, Dionna Ivy, Fatima Washingon, Tamarah Brownlee, Nissa Majors, Melissa Houston, Demetria Jackson, Cameron Brooks, Cyntressa Dickey, Kyle Ivy and Jason Scott - is gearing up for the release of it's latest album, "Bless His Name: Live." The album, recorded during a concert at Lighthouse Deliverance Cathedral, recreates the kind of fevered performances you can see only on stage, Brownlee says. "So much of gospel music is the feeling, the passion and the inspiration of the people in the audience," Brownlee says. "I wanted to capture that element. The studio is great, but it doesn't give you that in-the-moment feeling you get with a live performance. The little mistakes, the crowd response, the improvisations. Those things give the songs more flavor." The album is the group's first since 2004. But the sabbatical both deepened and matured Brownlee's writing, he says. "I've grown a lot," Brownlee says. "I'm writing a lot about life experiences now - still spiritually based, though. And there are times in the last four years when I've been discouraged, but, somehow, I'm still here. "That's the beauty of Christianity. Nothing is perfect. Nobody is perfect. But with Christianity, you have a place to go and get in touch with God. And maybe your situation hasn't changed, but you yourself (have) changed." (Emma Downs, Journal Gazette, July 11, 2008)