By Chrystal Caviness
Hezekiah Walker Makes It All about The Choir
Hezekiah Walker is a choir guy. Always has been. So the trend in recent years to downsize choirs into ensembles isn’t what Walker is about, a point he intended to make clear with the release of his current album, the Black Gospel icon’s 14th, titled Azusa Next Generation.
“What sets this album apart is the fact that it keeps choirs relevant,” Walker has said, adding that many people think choirs sound like “yesteryear.” With the new project, the GRAMMY® and Stellar Award winner had one goal.
“I needed to incorporate what we do as a choir and I think I’ve done a successful job with this CD,” he says. “Now when people hear it, people say ‘yes, choirs can be relevant. I like this music…I get the choir feel, but I also get that new sound.’”
Fans, as well as the industry, are approving. “Every Praise,” the uplifting anthem that kicks off the CD and was released as the first single, stayed at the No. 1 position on Billboard’s Gospel Radio Charts for weeks and also crossed over onto the Pop charts. “Every Praise” was also awarded a performance award at the 18th Annual SESAC Pop Awards.
“I was raised to almost believe that if you didn’t praise the way I praised then it was wrong,” Walker explains. “Over the years I’ve traveled to many places including London, Africa, and Germany; but when I went to Japan and performed in Tokyo and Osaka I saw people praising God in a way that was totally different from the way I was trained to do it. Even when I traveled to the Bahamas it was different. I was amazed by how all of us praised differently but all of the praises are going to this one God. So, when David Bratton presented the song, it immediately spoke the sentiments of my heart because there are so many people around the world who give God praise but everyone’s praise is different.”
Walker also included a variety of music on the new CD, which was produced by Donald Lawrence, bringing in guest performances with artists Donnie McClurkin, Deitrick Haddon, Brian Courtney Wilson and John P Kee. “These guys bring an element that is relevant but they also bring something to the table from each of their unique foundations,” says Walker. “When people hear the different collaborations with the different gospel artists, they will be blown away.”
Walker has been a mainstay in Black Gospel music for almost three decades, first forming the Love Fellowship Choir with a dozen members around 1985. Since then, he has led the genre with top-selling albums, chart-topping singles and top awards. This year, Walker received the prestigious James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award at the Stellar Awards, as well as receiving awards and nominations at the GRAMMYS®.
It’s been a good year, a reality that Walker shared during an interview last year with the online media outlet, Elev8, as he was preparing to release the new CD, “This is my 14th album and just for some reason,” he says, “I’ve got a really good feeling about it.”