At first, it would seem that Cee Josephs is aiming for the sultry soulfulness of Anita Baker. On the first track, “What Am I Living For,” Josephs conveys a similarly bluesy ache in her vocal delivery, recalling Baker’s mid-’80s breakthrough. But Josephs’ concerns are not matters of the heart, at least in terms of romantic relationships. Her vehicle is Gospel, and her songs belong to a higher power. Nevertheless, most of Josephs’ tunes have crossover appeal, possessing an ability to reel in secular audiences with the heartfelt emotions expressed in her singing and the mainstream R&B pulse of her arrangements. Josephs’ unyielding devotion to her Christian faith inspires her voice to soar to transcendent heights on “What Am I Living For,” but that isn’t even the highlight. On “Break Me to Use Me,” Josephs’ vocals reach an operatic level, rocketing to high notes. That’s not something one would expect from a Gospel record, and it’s that freshness and unpredictability that distinguishes Josephs from her peers.
“Faith Hope Charity” veers completely away from traditional Gospel music with its tropical beat, equally fueled by reggae, world, and funk. Of all of Josephs’ songs, “Faith Hope Charity” has the most playful tone; celebratory and highly energetic, it is dance music for the church. “Behind the Door” and “Any Room,” on the other hand, are moving slow jams that focus on the rich beauty of Josephs’ voice. Jazzy horns bring color to “Time Out.” Probably the best cut on the CD is “I Do,” a stunningly pretty proclamation of religious devotion that balances hook-laden melodies with the depths of Josephs’ singing. Gospel has unfortunately gotten the “old people’s music” tag among much of the young, even with kids who purchase Christian albums by the truckload. Josephs, though, remains relevant and contemporary with her stylistic choices while being timeless with her message.
Cee Josephs: www.ceejosephs.org