Shirley Caesar As Spiritual As Ever On ‘Fill This House’
Legendary gospel musician, Pastor Shirley Caesar, sounds as spiritual and consistent as ever on her latest album, Fill This House.
Perhaps I wasn’t the kindest to gospel legend Pastor Shirley Caesar, at least in regards to her album artwork for her latest album, Fill This House. What can I say? – I’m a sinner. Anyways, cover art opinions to the side, Caesar’s latest album is consistent. Honestly, does Shirley Caesar know anything but consistency after her decades in the game? The answer is NO. While Fill This House doesn’t reinvent the wheel, WHAT IS reinventing the wheel in any genre, particularly gospel? Rhetorical to the nth degree.
Over its inspiring course, Shirley Caesar’s voice sounds terrific at 77 years of age. It’s amazing that Caesar can still pack such a punch as the voice tends to weather, weakening with age and even more with overuse. As mentioned in the aforementioned “meanie” article, the praise for Caesar’s pipes was noted (again, it was the cover art!).
“It’s Alright, It’s OK”
Among the crème de la crème is opener “It’s Alright, It’s OK.” “It’s Alright, It’s OK” gives Caesar a contemporary gospel sound that’s fresh, but not “brand new.” Call this fresh in the context of the state of gospel, borrowing traditional cues but adding a dash of modern flair. R&B standout Anthony Hamilton is a perfect match for Caesar on this “leaning on God” record, with the two showcasing exceptional chemistry.
The tour de force isn’t the aforementioned duet. Rather, it’s the moving “Mother Emanuel.” “Mother Emanuel” references the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church, nicknamed Mother Emanuel. The South Carolina Church is significant because it’s where the racially-driven mass shooting occurred in 2015. Nine parishioners were murdered including pastor (and state senator) Clementa Pinckney. It’s rare to find a gospel song that digs deeper into current events or societal issues specifically, so “Mother Emanuel” has a deeper resonance and significance.
“He Won’t Fail You”
There are more than two highlights, but the aforementioned represent home runs. Other notable numbers include the rousing “He Won’t Fail You,” which follows up “It’s Alright, It’s OK.” Here, Caesar is backed by a choir. She “lets loose” more than the opener. “Survive This” is as energetic and fiery as anything else, featuring another gospel standout, Hezekiah Walker. On title track “Fill This House,” Caesar as always ‘nails’ the uplifting ballad, amplified by the spiritual choir backing her.
All in all, Caesar doesn’t miss a beat on Fill This House (not going to mention that artwork again…). While gospel isn’t the go-to genre for innovative spirit, there are some moments where Caesar ‘goes against the grain’, whether it’s the memorial “Mother Emanuel” or the tropical-infused “Sow Righteous Seeds” (for better or worse depending on preference). Ultimately, another winner from Pastor Caesar.
Gems: “It’s Alright, It’s OK,” “He Won’t Fail You” & “Mother Emanuel”