Bishop Dwayne Mason & Friends – Just Can’t Make It By Myself | Album Review

Bishop Dwayne Mason & Friends – Just Can’t Make It By Myself

The Sirens – 2022

11 tracks; 51 minutes

Back in 2002 celebrated blues pianist Erwin Helfer took part in an event to commemorate the 9/11 tragedies and was impressed by (the then) Reverend Dwayne Mason’s piano playing, and recommended him to his own record label, The Sirens, based in Chicago. Since then Dwayne Mason has recorded two albums of gospel music for the label, starting a series of gospel recordings to add to The Sirens’ blues catalogue. Now a Bishop and extremely busy with his ministry, Dwayne has little time to devote to his music but managed to create this latest release from three sessions held in 2019-2020. In each case another keyboard player was invited to participate (Curtis Daniel, Leonard Maddox and Eugene Ross III), alongside the Bishop, backed by bassist Richard Gibbs and Christopher Jones and Michael Eason who share the drum stool; Antoine Taylor Jr. and Ayden Taylor add tambourine to three tracks. Veteran gospel singer Mother Vernon Oliver Price sings on two cuts, Curtis Daniel on one and Eugene Ross on three, the remaining five being instrumentals.

The first session involved Eugene Ross III, a younger musician from Los Angeles. Eugene sings and plays piano on “Lord Help Me To Hold Out”, an uptempo gospel classic from James Cleveland, and “He Looked Beyond My Faults”, a slow and stately tune with powerful organ sweeps by Bishop Dwayne. On a third cut, “Jesus, That’s My King”, Bishop Dwayne plays both piano and organ, leaving Eugene to emote impressively on the vocals.

The second session of four tracks finds Bishop Dwayne on piano, leaving organ duties to Dr Curtis E Daniel from Indiana who sings on opener “I Love Jesus”, a tune that starts in jaunty fashion and increases in intensity as it progresses. 90 year-old Mother Vernon sings on two tracks, her signature song “I Just Can’t Make It By Myself”, a ballad that demonstrates where soul music’s origins lie, and the extended closer “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” which starts sedately, then builds to a frenetic finale in the last two minutes. Curtis’ final contribution is a bluesy sounding instrumental “I’m Sealed Till The Day Of Redemption”, both piano and organ featuring strongly.

The third session involves Leonard Maddox who contributed to Bishop Dwayne’s 2005 release Heavenly Keys. Leonard plays organ on four instrumentals, Bishop Dwayne on piano. “Jesus Will” has a staccato rhythm and quite a gentle groove, Thomas Dorsey’s “Search Me Lord” races along at pace, “Speak To My Heart” has the sentimental feel of a ballad and “I’ve Got A Testimony” is again uptempo, the piano adding a jazzy feel to the tune.

Gospel music is rather outside my area of expertise but this set is certainly well played and sung, so if you enjoy gospel, this disc might be a good addition to your collection.

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