For over two decades, Kurt Carr has been blessing the household of faith with modern day hymns such as “The Presence of the Lord is Here;” “For Every Mountain;” “I Almost Let Go;” “In the Sanctuary,” and “God Blocked It.” In due course, the maestro’s earned an RIAA Certified Gold CD; a Grammy Award nomination and a gaggle of Stellar Awards. As he unveils his seventh CD, Bless This House (Verity Gospel Music Group), the gifted songwriter, conductor and producer says his new music doesn’t diverge from his masterful work of the past but merely builds upon it. “It’s a continuum of who I am,” Carr explains. “I believe I’ve come into what my niche and what my purpose is – to make music that edifies the Body and blesses the church of Jesus Christ.”
There are 17 new soul-stirring songs of encouragement and gratitude that comprise the double disc, Bless This House. The title track was a last minute addition that came to Carr while he was in Los Angeles to record the final songs for the CD. “I woke up at 4 a.m. in the morning with that title [in my mind]. I thought that would be a great way to summarize all of the music because I wanted to do an album full of songs that were great for the church experience,” he says. “I tried to go back to sleep and I couldn’t, so I sat up in my bed and wrote that song. I went to the studio around noon and when I taught it to my singers the worship was so strong that I knew this song was God-give and I knew it was the title cut.”
“It’s really a prayer asking God to bless and cover his people,” Carr says of the mellow congregational plea for divine favor that features Nikki Potts. “So many songs are directed towards the world and the unsaved, but a lot of times believers need encouragement as well.” Carr spent the last three years writing and creating these songs designed to inspire both churchgoers and passive observers alike – in the United States and abroad.
The CD opens with the lush, fully orchestrated “Let Everything That Has Breath Praise,” featuring praise & worship leader extraordinaire Dr. Judith McAllister. Gospel fans voted in an online contest and chose the testimonial driven “I’ve Seen Him Do It” to be the first single off of the CD. “I really believe the reason that people chose that song is because of the climate we are in right now,” says Carr. “People are making it day by day because of faith. Every believer has seen God do incredible things and we know He will continue to do so.”
For those who appreciate the traditional old school experience, Carr delivers a handful of numbers like “We Cannot Be Silent (Psalm 34)” – which opens with veteran artist Lorraine Stancil-Lawson’s meteoric soprano dancing over a simmering organ. He challenges her to take it to “the valley,” where she shows off her deep contralto notes, and then commands her to take it back to the mountain top where she hits a crystal-shattering note before the ensemble launches into a harmonious refrain of “I will bless the Lord at all times.” The organ squeals on the riveting hand clapper “Amen” (dedicated to the late queen of gospel, Albertina Walker) and the soul-stirring, “Between Here and There” that showcases the dynamic Kathy Taylor on the vamp.
For those who love the praise and worship genre, Carr brings that into the house too with such soaring ballads as “There Is A Sound” featuring Yvette Williams; “Praise and Worship” featuring Nikitta Foxx and “Touched By The Fountain of Grace” featuring Troy Bright – all which, in true Carr form, possess the pomp, majesty and classical ceremony of light opera.
BLESS THIS HOUSE also has high energy songs sure to become praise & worship team favorites, such as “Oh Magnify The Lord” and “Great God Great Praise.” The pop-infused “We Gotta Put Jesus Back,” featuring 7 year old Myles Caton, speaks of society breaking down as a result of taking Jesus out of Christmas and removing prayer from public schools. The solution: Put Jesus back! There’s a feel good vintage R&B vibe to “It’s A Good Day” which proclaims “every day you wake up…it’s a good day.”
Carr branches off into real dance territory on “Always Covering Me,” featuring Michelle Prather. The song boasts wailing vocals and a fusion of House music with a nod to the orchestrated beats of the `70s disco era. “It’s definitely different from any style of music I’ve ever done, but I like to call myself a musical chameleon,” Carr laughs. “I like to joke and say I really could do a Hip Hop album if I wanted to, and no one would ever know it was me! This is a song that will reach different people than I normally reach. It’s a stretch musically. It’s out there and it sounds like a dance song and all of that but the message is clear: That God is always covering his children, especially through the challenges of life. God is always there.”
BLESS THIS HOUSE is rounded out by such songs of gratitude as “I’ve Got So Much” that opens with Brandon Winbush’s soaring tenor and closes with Vonnie Lopez’ gutsy alto; and “I Want to Be True” where Timiney Figueroa sings about remaining true to her calling regardless of any accolades that may or may not come her way. A militaristic drumline filters the powerful anthem “Soldier On” in which Carr sermonizes, “For every Christian soldier who’s ever gotten weary from the battle of life…let me remind you that Jesus is your captain and because he’s your captain you cannot fail.”
These motivating words were born within a person who wasn’t raised in the church. The Hartford, CT native started attending worship services on his own when he was 13 years old. “We moved within a stone’s throw of a church,” he recalls. “I come from a family of believers but we just weren’t church regulars. It was the leading of the Lord. One Sunday I got up and went around the corner to the church and I kept going. Then, my brother started going and eventually, my entire family started coming. God used my gift to bring a lot of my family together to see me at church and to see me ministering. God used a child to bring a lot of people together.”
Carr’s mother noticed her son’s penchant for music and brought him a present that’s arguably responsible for the career he has today. “She had gone to New York to see the musical `Your Arms Too Short To Box with God’. At that time, I had just gotten into the church. She brought me back the soundtrack to that musical and `Jesus Christ is the Way’ by The Hawkins Family. Those two records changed my life. I learned how to play piano listening to that `Jesus Christ is the Way’ album. That’s why it was so amazing how God took my life in full circle a few years ago when I had the opportunity to produce Tramaine Hawkins. Tramaine, Walter and the Hawkins Family were my heroes. I literally learned how to play songs by picking out notes from that album.”
After graduating from the University of Hartford circa 1986 with a degree in music, Carr moved to Los Angeles and became the music director and pianist for the late Rev. James Cleveland. By 1991, his group, The Kurt Carr Singers, had recorded its debut CD and became one of the biggest names in gospel music a decade later. In the time since Carr and his singers have delivered unforgettable songs like “In the Sanctuary” and “God Blocked It” that have become radio staples and songs sung by local choirs and church praise teams around the globe.