THE GOSPEL according to Rev. F.C. Barnes and Rev. Janice Brown, pastors of the Red Budd Holy Church in Rocky Mount, N.C., has always been stirring and soulful. In fact, with its strong backbeat and passionate vocals, their new album, "I Hear Jesus Calling," is as gritty as it gets.
Their quintet provides an earthy groove for every track, a downhome sound not unlike that of the early Staple Singers. It's a perfect backdrop for two of the most convincing voices in gospel music. Brown's cathartic alto can move the soul and the feet at the same time, even when the tempo is slow, while Barnes, ever the spiritual guide, spurs her on with rousing exhortations.
If Rev. Barnes doesn't break any new ground as a writer, he certainly tills familiar turf with gusto. His lyrics are as simple and direct as some of the traditional tunes included on the album, such as "Ain't It Sweet" and "God Is Great." More important, he and Rev. Brown often sing them as if their fate (and ours) hangs in the balance.
REVS. F.C. BARNES & JANICE BROWN -- "I Hear Jesus Calling" (AIR 10120). Appearing Sunday at Fort Dupont Park..