The Walls Group – The Other Side (2017)
The Walls Group – The Other Side
It is a delicate balance working as a vocal group, constantly maintaining the harmonies and the interaction of all the solo parts. This certainly holds true for family groups, because they already know all the other members’ vocal capabilities they bring to the table. When Houston, Texas natives, The Walls Group (Darrel, Paco, Rhea and Ahjah Walls) self-released their debut in 2011 and a three-track Christmas EP, the gospel community took immediate notice of their family solid roots. Their incredibly mature voices were instilled by a musically inclined family of eight singing children, fueled by their appreciation of country, Broadway musicals, gospel, hip-hop and R&B. And it certainly was an extra boost for TWG when one of contemporary gospel’s architects and another Houston native, Kirk Franklin, signed them to his Fo Yo Soul imprint.
Undoubtedly, TWG flourished further in their ministry, as evidenced by their 2014 Fo Yo Soul bow and Franklin-produced, Fast Forward, that featured the Grammy-nominated hit, “Love on the Radio.” Through their transition from independent status to the majors, the Stellar-Award winning quartet’s seamless mix of classic and modern nuances remained unchanged. They actually drew special attention a few years back on SoulTracks’ featured series, First Listen, for another hit off Fast Forward, “Satisfied.”
Despite the production change from Franklin, TWG’s second Fo Your Soul release, The Other Side, continues focusing on the group’s already impressive musicality. This time, under the guidance of Warryn Campbell and Eric Dawkins, the songwriting of Darrel Walls and Ahjah Walls’ addresses various issues and emotions through one’s Christian walk. The first single, “My Life,” rides on a disco funk groove, with encouraging words from God, no matter what others may be thinking or saying: “Let me be great.” Pure new jack swing works effectively on “Don’t Cha’ Know,” speaking to letting go of the past in obtaining spiritual freedom. The title track addresses hope in a challenging world, with country-flavored melodies and harmonies.
Doo wop with hip-hop edgings and passionate gospel decorate “And You Don’t Stop”: “Can’t count on myself/You are that very present help/And it don’t stop.” Changing the mood, Paco’s piercing rap on “Mercy” reflects the negative human state of affairs: “I’m too messed up and too flawed/Too held down by these scars.” Then there’s a hearty recipe of blues and gospel that entails “Good,” illustrating scriptural stories about making the blind man see and healing the lame man.
Despite their incredible musical skill sets, what really makes TWG tick throughout The Other Side stems from their intricate harmonies and their intimate worship. “The Prayer,” anchored by its sonic orchestrations, incorporates the Lord’s Prayer from the Book of Matthew in a flawless crescendo from one voice to the whole group, wrapped up with Paco’s intense prayer: “We don’t always know the power we possess/We don’t always represent You wearing Christ upon our chest.” The blues-driven “Word” becomes a cry for help while striving to please the Lord: “God I don’t mean to be rude and selfish/But I’ve exhausted every resource I have”. And the beauty of simplicity falls in place on “My Worship,” stripping beats for sweet strings and TWG’s moving solos and duets.
In all honesty, The Other Side already builds upon what The Walls Group represents for the next gospel generation. The better news is that if their artistic choices and key spiritual messages remain intact, no matter what producers are in charge, TWG’s firm family values could resonate in the gospel music industry for a mighty long time. Strongly Recommended.
By Peggy Oliver