04.16.2020

EXCLUSIVE! CeCe Winans’ “Alabaster Box” — The Anatomy Of A Gospel Classic

EXCLUSIVE! CeCe Winans’ “Alabaster Box” — The Anatomy Of A Gospel Classic

by Michael P Coleman

Nothing beats a good gospel song when the going gets rough. For centuries, songs like “Amazing Grace” and “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” have proven their utility for getting music fans over the rough side of the mountain.

So as we combat both the realities of a global pandemic and a media barrage that sometimes seems as unrelenting as the novel coronavirus itself, music is a balm, and no song brings more comfort that CeCe Winans’ epic “Alabaster Box.” As Christians worldwide observe the most Holy Week of the year, it’s a perfect time to deconstruct that masterpiece, which was the title track to Winans’ fourth solo album, released in 1999.

Independent of your personal religious beliefs, there’s something powerful about hearing anyone speak their truth as earnestly as Winans does. As it turns out, “Alabaster Box” had quite an impact on the gospel music legend when she heard it for the first time.

“What a song,” Winans declared during a phone chat from her home in Nashville. “I was on tour years ago, and someone gave me a cassette tape and said it had a song on it that I needed to hear. I got into my bunk on the tour bus that night, and I put the song on, and a girl was singing ‘Alabaster Box’, all the way stripped down. I wept, and I wept, and I wept.”

Winans told me that she knew she had to record the song, but the time had to be right.

“I held that song for a few years, because it just had to be the right CD, the right time,” Winans continued. “It describes the meaning and the power of worship. There’s an anointing on that song!”

After hearing about Winans finding the song, and her connection to it, I had to track Sjostrand down. The songwriter and her husband co-pastor a church in Ohio. She grew up in Santa Ana, California and began a walk with Christ when she was just nine years old.

And just as Sjostrand vividly recalls her initial meeting with Jesus, she remembers writing “Alabaster Box” as if it were yesterday.

“I remember exactly when I wrote it,” Sjostrand shared by phone. “My father in law had gone back to his home church [to preach at] an alumni event, and I agreed to sing after his sermon. He began to speak on the woman with the alabaster box. That’s my personal testimony: I’ve always felt, since I was nine years old, like that woman with the alabaster box.”

Read MPC’s full feature, with more from his EXCLUSIVE conversations with CeCe Winans and the songwriter!

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