On his latest release, One Church, the heralded Kurt Carr with the Kurt Carr Singers and the Choir of Life are making disciples of all nations through the power of song.
Kurt and his seven-voice ensemble make music that is truly multi-cultural and international in scope, and One Church is easily one of the most adventuresome and exciting entries into the lexicon of modern Gospel.
"I've felt God impressing on me that it was time to really reach out to the world with our music," says Kurt, "so it was very important to me to draw on the talents of people of different races, ages, nationalities, and doctrinal backgrounds; all to solidify the theme and the truth that we really are one church in Christ. I think there's something on this album that all believers will be touched by."
One Church is Kurt's first release since 2000's Awesome Wonder. Awesome Wonder is a multi-award winning, gold certified album. In the interim between that breakthrough album, winner of six of Gospel music's coveted Stellar Awards, and One Church, Kurt picked up four more Stellars for his role as producer of the self-titled, debut album of 2003's Gospel sensation and New Artist of the Year, Byron Cage.
As gifted a songwriter as he is an artist, instrumentalist, producer, arranger and conductor, Kurt has twice written the Stellar Songs of the Year; Byron Cage's smash, The Presence of the Lord Is Here, as well as his own group's classic, In the Sanctuary. So broad in fact is the reach of Kurt's music that In the Sanctuary has, to date, been translated into nine different languages and recorded by more than 20 different acts the world over.
On One Church, Kurt's trademark musical diversity grows to include, on various cuts, a South African choir, Scottish bagpipers, an Armenian accordionist, an eastern Indian sitar, and a full classical orchestra, in a mix of songs that literally redefine Gospel itself, from traditional foot-stompers and jammin' urban/R&B, to exotic forays into world music eclecticism, and gorgeous, reverential ballads. Anyone looking for something to compare it to need not bother. As engaging and accessible as it is thoroughly unique and original, One Church is a work that stands in a category all its own.
Kurt wrote and produced 11 of the album's songs; as well an inspired remake of Walter Hawkins' classic, Be Grateful, and each holds a special place for him. Several particular standouts include God Great God, which blends choral Gospel with a rollicking, rocking amalgam of R&B edginess, world music vibe, and Sunday-morning sanctimony. As the second cut on the album, it also stands as early notification to sit yourself down, buckle your seatbelt, and prepare for a dazzling, tour-de-force ride, the likes of which you have never before experienced.
"With all the dangers and threats we face in the world today, this song is a reminder that there still is no power greater than God," says Kurt. "And I think that's the message we as the church have to stand on now more than ever."
The medley, Psalm 68: Let Our God Arise/Power Praise, begins as perhaps the world's first praise & worship tango, before segueing into a full-blown, traditional Gospel jam, jacked up to a totally 21st-century overdrive that literally rattles the rafters.
God Blocked It, has a delicate, endearing R&B/pop touch that proclaims God's promise of protection of all His children from the powers of evil. "This song is basically about our perception of the trials and tribulations we go through. It seems sometimes like we're always dealing with obstacles and confrontations, when in reality, if we knew just how much disaster and calamity we come within maybe just a second or an inch of, and never even know it, because God is shielding and protecting us, we'd worry less and praise Him more."
One Church is also currently slated in some markets to be accompanied by a bonus, CD single titled We Haven't Forgotten You, a medley of signature songs by the late Gospel patriarch, the Rev. James Cleveland, arranged by Kurt and featuring a number of the artists who worked with the master over the years.
Kurt's family was not deeply involved in church when he was a child, but at the age of 13 he found himself drawn there on his own, quickly becoming active in the music program. And while music was his original passion in the church, the forming of a personal relationship with Christ would follow over the next several years.
"I think the Lord brought me along in a gradual sort of way until I was around 17," Kurt recalls. "I began to realize that there was a greater meaning and higher calling to what I was doing. I heard Him telling me that this was what I was supposed to do with my life, and that He was going to use me for His purposes, and I accepted that and Him. But I never for a second dreamed He would ever use me to this magnitude. It's been quite amazing to me."
Kurt went on to obtain a degree in music from the University of Connecticut, focusing in the classroom on classical music, but all the while absorbing the sounds of the street and the world around him as well. His first national recognition came when he spent seven years as pianist and musical director for James Cleveland, who had discovered him when he was playing one year at the annual conference of the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA), as well as a year accompanying Gospel's equally legendary Andraé Crouch. Kurt's abundance and range of talent, coupled with those high-profile associations, led to the position of Creative Director at Los Angeles' renowned West Angeles COGIC Church, where he worked with luminaries from both the Gospel and secular music industry, including Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Denzel Washington, Lynn Whitfield, and Kirk Franklin.
He formed the Kurt Carr Singers in the early '90s, releasing the first of his now five albums. Though it would be several years and three projects later, Kurt emerged as a serious force to be reckoned with when his song For Every Mountain, released initially on his own album, No One Else, was covered by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, and won a Grammy Award in 1995. Wildly popular, the song was recorded by more than ten other artists and today is considered a standard of the church.
No One Else scored well on the charts, but most significantly, it set the stage for the explosive success of its follow-up, Awesome Wonder. With One Church now poised to carry the Kurt Carr to even greater heights, Kurt, who received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Ohio's Aenon Bible College in 2001, is focused ultimately on a refreshingly humble and simple-but-profound lifetime goal.
"When it's all finished, and the Lord has called me home, there's just one thing I hope people will be able to say about me," he concludes. "And that's, 'Well done, kid.'"
Well done, indeed, Kurt. Very well done.