Crystal lewisCrystal Lewis can deliver a song with the best of them – her self-titled project is a very strong performance full of funk and power, with every word of every lyric plumbed for all its worth.

Crystal Lewis

Crystal Lewis is the female counterpart of Bryan Duncan, Jon Gibson, and Bob Carlisle. Crystal returns to the scene (although she's been releasing albums on-and-off through 2011) via this crowd-funded self-titled effort that shows her absolutely at the top of her form and still mighty funky.

Lewis' impressive voice is certainly the star of the show here, and the intervening years have done nothing to diminish her soulful gospel-inspired delivery – In fact, her phrasing has grown considerably in depth, jazziness, power and pure soul. There are plenty of singers out there with impressive vocal chops but few with the degree of control and smart decision making that are on display on this project. Throughout the album there are hints of some solid influences, from Chaka Khan, on “In Your Name,” to the tight vocal sounds of the little-known jazz/funk band from the early days of Christian music, Tamarac, on “Move On” (am I being obscure or just getting old?). Crystal lets loose her best traditional gospel phrasing at the end of the curiously titled “Run,” where, what could have been a throw-away vamp instead ends the song in spectacular vocal fashion. “I Will Sing” shows that Crystal Lewis can quite simply belt out a strong ballad with the best of them – a very strong, emotional performance, with every word of the lyric plumbed for all its worth.

Crystal Lewis' self-titled album is a sampler of R&B and soul stylings with a good dose of traditional gospel phrasing lurking around the edges of the vocals. Starting out with the funky R&B of “Be Alright,” “Faithful” follows with a smooth detour into Disco (but with enough soul to lessen the glitz). Things kick into gear with the hooky “Love Each Other,” a tough bit of funk with a vocal that slaps you in the face, a killer guitar break, and some super vocal improvisation. The aforementioned “Run” features some jazzy ensemble playing and some particularly tight, funky bass.

The lyrics throughout are inspirational and blatantly Christian without sounding like the message was shoe-horned into the songs.

Instrumentally, the album is a fine compliment to Lewis' amazing vocal performance. There are two producers responsible, although the project have a nice, unified feeling. First, on the songs produced by Elija Thomson, the players are: Frank Lenz/ drums, percussion, Elijah Thomson/ bass, synthesizer, bell tree, guitar, Shawn Tubbs/ guitars, Jimmy Wallace/ keys, David Vandervelde/ guitars, clavinet, James Raymond/ piano, Mark Visher/ sax,Tim Rubottom/ trumpet, and Phil Krawzak/ baritone sax. The band – as produced by Peace586 – is: Peace586/ beats, Joel Goodwin/ keys, synth, bass, Shawn Tubbs/ guitars, Nic Rodriguez/ bass, Blaine Stark/ additional guitars, B3, programming, Jared Rich/ additional keys. From funk to jazz to nightclub to power ballad, these guys covered it all and covered it to perfection. Oh, I left out Disco, didn't I? No harm done....

Bert Saraco