03.08.2019

We Shall Overcome (Live Performance & Album) - Damien Sneed: A Review

We Shall Overcome (Live Performance & Album) - Damien Sneed: A Review

By Michael P Coleman

The Gallo Center for the Art’s CEO, Lynn Dickerson, told the crowd last Sunday that she had been led to bring Damien Sneed’s We Shall Overcome: A Tribute To Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Modesto upon hearing of the show at a conference early last year. 

With instincts like that, Dickerson is a Lifetime Honorary Sistah.   I’m inviting her to my next backyard BBQ. 

We Shall Overcome encompassed a broad range of musical genres, including classical, jazz, opera, R & B, and gospel and included a superb band and a handful of the greatest vocalists this side of heaven. 

At one point during the show, they performed two showstoppers from The Wiz, “Believe In Yourself” and “Home,” sung by Anitra McKinney and Chenee Campbell, respectively.  During another segment, we were treated to one of the most beautiful classical sopranos I have ever heard, Brandie Sutton, with a rendition of the spiritual “Lord, Home Come Me Here.”  The concert closed with a stunning, slowed version of Walter Hawkins’ brilliant declaration of gratitude for divine help in avoiding life’s roadblocks, “Thank You,” with an incendiary vocal by Markita Knight.

Even with all of that musical might, Sneed more than held his own, both behind the mike and on the keyboards.  In describing him, the word “phenomenon” seems woefully insufficient.  

Sneed’s We Shall Overcome was the balm we all needed after recent developments on the Stephon Clark case.  But if you missed the concert, there’s good news:  Sneed’s done the best that’s humanly possible to capture the show’s essence with his new album, also entitled We Shall Overcome

The album’s highlights include “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” “Walk With Me,” “God Bless The Child,” and “Come Sunday.”  I’m familiar with the perfect version of the latter tune, recorded in the 1950s by Duke Ellington and Mahalia Jackson.  Miraculously, Sneed’s version matches it. 

Among the more recent covers on the album, highlights include Sneed’s take on Ike & Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which eschewed Simon & Garfunkel’s original arrangement in favor of Aretha Franklin’s. 

That tack would have been almost suicidal for a lesser vocalist.  In Campbell’s hands, we can rest easy knowing that God has left someone here on earth who’s capable of taking over for the legendary Queen Of Soul.

I’m going to make a request of you that almost no other writer would make:  stop reading this.  Now.  And download or stream Sneed’s We Shall Overcome.  If you do so, you’ll find the inspiration to overcome whatever life has tossed your way. 

Damen Sneed’s We Shall Overcome is available at all major digital outlets. 

Check out other shows at the Gallo Center For The Arts at galloarts.org.

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Connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.