Is there room for to express songs that are sacred in essence and nature in or with a secular turn of musical phrase – using the idiom of the Black American Music [The Blues, Jazz and Gospel] or rock, or even in the form of a samba, for instance? Leticia Walker not only thinks so, but uses the depths of her elegantly rumbling contralto to do just that kind of worship and praise.
Miss Walker’s album Lit from Within is just that and has marvelously performed repertoire to prove beyond doubt that she is a bona fide member of the proverbial Holy Rollin’ musical community. On this album she has thrown open the doors of that proverbial church and takes her musical evangelizing out into the streets – or, more appropriately, onto the main stage. Singing with unfussy enunciation – eschewing bravura, using her soft vibrato sparingly – she cuts loose and soars only to let us know that she comes from the Black Gospel church tradition. Indeed she shouts her way en route to proclaiming The Word, prompted as if by the Holy Ghost from the rarefied realm.
Her roots are deep in the unshakeable fervour of the Black Gospel Tradition [as opposed to the WASP one, which continues to draw inspiration from Baroque counterpoint even when dwelling in the harmonic notation inspired by a contemporary psalter]. Among the most outstanding pieces on this are Prayer of St. Francis [based on the legendary saint’s theology of Laudato SI that gave glory to Divine Creation].
Miss Walker has gone beyond merely singing the lyric, she has – on several occasions embellished the tradition [or contemporary] lyric; her efforts in this regard, on Better than Anything [which turns the secular into the spiritual], on Prayer of St. Francis and Highest Praise is credit-worthy.
Having a group of musicians who have bought into the mission of this recording has also helped make it worthy of additional praise. The pianist Aaron Graves deserves much of the credit for this with his superb arrangements [made together with Miss Walker] as does Steve Jankowski not only complementing the sculpted melodic content of this music with his elegantly burnished performance on the brass instruments, but for his soaring horn arrangements. One would be remiss if praise was not also given to the vocal chorus comprising Deb Lyons, Kimberly Davis and Audrey Martells, who adorn the lyrics with masterful vocalastics.
While this is a truly fine communal performance, it is Leticia Walker who is, indeed lit from within as she leads the faithful – featuring excellent soloists – with eloquent and worshipful musicianship.
Tracks – 1: Lit from Within; 2: This I know for Sure; 3: Speak to Me; 4: Better than Anything; 5: Power of Love/Love Power; 6: Prayer of St. Francis; 7: Highest Praise [medley]; 8: My City of Ruins; 9: Just a Closer Walk with Thee; 10: Happy Days/Get Happy; 11: Jesus is Mine
Musicians – Leticia Walker: vocals, compositions, additional music [6, 7,], additional lyrics [4, 6, 7]; Aaron Graves: arrangements, piano, organ 2 – 11], additional music [6, 7]; Steve Beskrone: bass [2 – 11]; Leon Jordan: drums [2 – 11]; Richard Tucker: guitar [2 – 11]; Deb Lyons: duet  and background vocals; Kimberly Davis: background vocals; Audrey Martells: background vocals; Doug DeHays: tenor and baritone saxophones and flute [1 – 11]; Steve Jankowski: trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone and horn arrangements [2 – 11], arrangements ; Marc Ribler: guitar [and featured soloist on 1]; Demetrios Pappas: keyboards [1 and featured soloist on 8]; Anthony Senatore: bass ; Tom Cottone: drums ; Tommy LaBella: alto saxophone [featured soloist on 5]
Released – 2022
Label – Independent
Runtime – 53:31