After four decades as one of the most popular Gospel artists in the genre, Richard Smallwood remains a vital and vibrant fixture in Gospel music. With the July 19th release of his 15th CD PROMISES, Smallwood showcases his timeless gifts as songwriter and pianist and delivers a body of work that is at once refreshing and reflective. Recorded live in a small studio setting, PROMISES is Smallwood’s first CD since the 2005 passing of his beloved Mother, who was the artist’s biggest fan and motivator. “I had not written a song since my mom died,” he says, “I thought the gift had dried up. I would try to write and nothing would come.”
A wellspring of inspiration hit in 2009, and PROMISES – what may very well be Smallwood’s most personal and intimate album yet – was born. “I was watching CNN and was overwhelmed by the negativity I saw,” Smallwood says. “I began to think that regardless of what the media says, we as God’s children are heirs to the Kingdom and He has made us certain promises…then all of these songs began to come to me as dreams, sometimes four or five at a time and I could barely keep up with them. I knew that God was saying something that we all needed to hear.”
“Trust Me,” the majestic first single, is currently available at iTunes. Smallwood says “it is a song to encourage those who have experienced loss. It’s telling them that what they are feeling shall pass, if they only trust God.” The message perpetuates the album’s theme of divine promises, with a lyric that states “I’ll fight your battles/if you will only trust me.”
PROMISES also features “Is There Any Way?” The song was originally recorded on the late Bishop Walter Hawkins’ LOVE ALIVE III, and Smallwood reworked it in tribute to Hawkins, who was his mentor and friend. “The first time I heard `Is There Any Way?’ I felt like he wrote it just for me,” says Smallwood. “I’ve been there in those times when you feel like you want to give up and then you remember God’s promise that He’ll be with you through the storm and through the rain.” In the LOVE ALIVE V performance video, Smallwood is seen standing in the audience, with his arms outstretched in praise, as ‘Is There Any Way?’ is performed. He reworks the song for his own CD with a reverence and passion that will strike a familiar, praise-inducing chord.
Donald Lawrence collaborates with Smallwood on “Facts Are, Truth Is;” and Lalah Hathaway (daughter of his ‘60s Howard University classmate Donny Hathaway) appears on “Praying for Peace.” “I was going through some of the songs I had written in the ‘70s and many had the same theme as this song,” Smallwood recalls. “Back then it was the Vietnam War, so we’re going through the very same thing because there’s always been fighting, there’s always been war. But now racism has reared its ugly head in a way that I haven’t seen since I was a little boy. I wanted to write something that everyone could identify with globally, which is that we need peace.”
Also heard throughout PROMISES is Vision, Smallwood’s trusty ensemble of singers. The CD was produced by longtime collaborator Steven Ford.
PROMISES will be in-stores July 19, 2011.