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Graceland: Kierra Sheard's Album Review

As I prepared myself to listen to Gospel recording artist Kierra Sheard’s new album, Graceland, I recalled when I had the chance to interview Ms. Sheard this past April for the blog. She was so enthused about the release of Graceland and now the time has come to fruition. It’s been three years since her last live/studio album called Free and with this new record Sheard is far from her “You Don’t Know” and “Indescribable” image.
            The deluxe album, consisting of fourteen tracks with nominal featured artists, comes off of Sheard’s family owned label Karew Records. BonnerFideRadio, a music site, featured a listening party on July 21st for the new release and I used that opportunity to listen to the songs. Its actual release is today, July 22, 2014, and I know for certain her supporters and Johnny-come-latelies will enjoy it.
            Sheard speaks for herself back in our April interview, “My goal for this record was to give Christian listeners and people who are already in church an outlet to hear Jesus in a different way, and not in a traditional way. And then not just catering to them, but I also want to cater to the people who aren’t believers. I was taught that the wins to get to catch a fish you have to send in some bait, and so I think that the tool that The Lord has allowed me to use is to kind of have a different sound of music so they won’t immediately identify it as Gospel…” In making this remark, Sheard urges us to fully bask in music for what it is lyrically, as past generations of greats have done like: The Clark Sisters, Walter Hawkins, and even Stevie Wonder.
            To win souls in this lost generation, does Sheard fully convey this necessity and expressively exude confidence of that conviction with a mature sound in Graceland? The answer is yes. Producers and songwriters who are featured on this record are Harmony Samuels “Save Me,” songwriter Diane Warren and producers Aaron Lindsey and J. Drew Sheard (Kierra’s brother who has produced a great deal of the album) for “Flaws.” My favorite songs from Graceland would be “Flaws” and “In You.” One of the reasons “Flaws” is a favorite is because it talks about insecurities every human experiences at some point in their life; this gospel track is the equivalence to Beyoncé’s “Flaws and All.” We serve an awesome God who accepts us as is-- to an unbeliever one may think this song is about a woman/man relationship, which it could be interpreted as, but this is the love for Jesus Christ who’s the ultimate relationship we should want. Moreover, “In You” gives me OneRepublic’s “Feel Again” vibe which I love! That track, “In You,” is just a feel good one and inspiring.
Now if you’re that person who’s in constant need of hype, “ratchet” songs I would suggest either Sheard’s “Repin My God” featuring Christian hip hop artist Canton Jones, or “You Don’t Like What You See (Interlude).” What I really loved was the intro on the album because it featured Kierra’s father, Bishop J. Drew Sheard’s general board election speech for the Church of God In Christ. Similarly, we can hear her mother, Evangelist Karen Clark Sheard preaching towards the end of “Moving Forward.” Graceland was merely a family affair in that she sampled “We Were Overcome” by legendary gospel group (consists of Kierra’s aunts and mother) The Clark Sisters on “2nd Win.” With Sheard’s song titled “Balm (Interlude),” she also sampled that from the group’s “Balm in Gilead” record. Mixing the old with the new meshed effortlessly.
The songs I’ve highlighted are my favorites, but I must admit I love the cohesiveness of the entire album. This body of work is amazing. I hope that Ms. Kierra receive great feedback and that her album graces the top of charts. I think the best message to come from Graceland is in the actual word; biblically Christians want that unmerited favor of God (grace) and this album is that journey to get there, hence Graceland.
Graceland is simply... incredible.