Just as country music veered ever closer to the sound of pop and Top 40 rock in the '80s and '90s, gospel music too has incorporated elements of slick R&B and streetwise hip-hop in recent years. The sanctified soul of gospel choirs, the deep-rooted harmony of a cappella groups such as the Five Blind Boys of Alabama and the powerhouse vocals of singers such as Shirley Caesar remain at the heart of traditional gospel. But for a look at the contemporary gospel sound, check out Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams and Donnie McClurkin.
Since 1993, when Franklin's debut album soared to the top of the gospel charts and became a crossover hit thanks to the smash single "Why We Sing," the Houston-born vocalist has revolutionized the gospel style. Franklin's vocals are closer to rap-style sermons than singing, and his seventeen-member "Family" functions like a mix of a soulful R&B vocal group, a testifying choir and a deep-in-the-pocket urban groove band. Like Franklin, singer Yolanda Adams jazzes up a traditional gospel approach with crossover appeal. Her amazing vocal range and soul-diva style have made her one of the top female stars in gospel. Opening act Donnie McClurkin is a rising star with the smooth, sophisticated ballad style of a young Andraé Crouch -- and a deep baritone to match. For gospel fans -- or anyone interested in music that touches the soul -- this is a can't-miss concert.