Ms. Anita Wilson is releasing her uplifting sophomore LP, Vintage Worship, on Jun. 24. The inspirational album on the Motown Gospel imprint was primarily written and produced by the Grammy-nominated alto along with her collaborative partner, Rick Robinson.
Like Wilson’s debut effort, Worship Soul, Vintage Worship’s collection of songs marries uplifting Sunday morning gospel with elements of lush 1970s-era soul, mid-tempo 1980s R&B, funk, jazz and even Go-Go. Vintage Worship was recorded in the studio unlike Worship Soul, recorded live at Chicago’s Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.
In the same vein as many black contemporary gospel acts, a hospitable Wilson believes her genre-bending sound appeals to a broad audience. “Evangelism tells us to reach out to folks that don’t go to church,” says Wilson. “It’s feel good music with a message. I set out to create a sound and body of work not just for Sunday mornings.”
The meticulous yet delightful St. Louis-born worship leader and Robinson typically take a year to map out the direction of their music. Immediately following Vintage Worship’s unofficial listening session at Atlanta’s BMI office, Wilson, resting comfortably, speaks about the pair’s creative process being “a natural evolution.”
“When we started writing the music, it just felt like music that would really translate well for studio,” says Wilson propping her left leg under her right one. “It’s a more concentrated sound. I’m naturally a live singer, so it stretched me a bit.” Robinson, who is sitting adjacent to Wilson, considers Vintage Worship “the sequel to Worship Soul.” “It’s the same influences and same vibe,” says Robinson. “Something [Anita] does, I know this for a fact, is she does it in excellence. She’s very adamant about putting out a great product to God. She doesn’t settle for less.”
Prior to Wilson embarking on a solo career, the accomplished Dove- and Stellar– singer was a highly sought after background vocalist. The glowing performer shared both the stage and recording booth with notable gospel talents like Hezekiah Walker, Marvin Sapp, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, VaShawn Mitchell and DeWayne Woods.
In fact, it was her role as one of Donald Lawrence’s featured vocalists that provided Wilson the ultimate gateways for both her solo career and with some of nonsecular music’s most popular recording artists. Because of Lawrence’s guidance, she says, the self-proclaimed “gospel singer who can’t do runs” became a more confident and authentic singer. “He always encourages me,” says Wilson. “He’s an amazing mentor. The lessons are innumerable. I miss singing with my family.”
Wilson, who delivers a memorable performance on Lawrence’s “Happy Being Me,” precisely recalls hearing a singer on the radio singing in a higher register and with a lot more vibrato that hers. A then self-conscious Wilson was envious because she thought her voice was “too low and deep.” Lawrence’s immediate reaction was, ‘Why? Your voice gives people something different and fresh from the norm. Own your tone and just be you,’” he says.
Thanks to Lawrence’s teachings combined with Robinson’s musicianship, Wilson is a more assertive performer. Wilson and Robinson talk amongst themselves about the daily quarrels they had while recording Vintage Worship. Still, their efforts produced a project of which the pair is extremely proud. The Motown Gospel reps in attendance expressed how proud they are of both Wilson and Robinson.
“[Rick] challenges me as a writer,” says Wilson. “That’s his natural space. We definitely bump heads, but he makes me think outside of the box as it relates to unpredictable lyrics. He knows what needs to go into the music and what brings the story together. I’d think it was a good take. He would delete it and say it was bad. He keeps me on my toes.”
Robinson adds, “[Anita] has her own lane,” he says. “The cool thing about having your own lane is you can be comfortable in your own skin and just do what you do. She pushes me to continue to have a track record of excellence. She keeps me on my toes as well.”
This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.