After a lengthy hiatus, R&B gospel duo DAWKINS AND DAWKINS are back with a great new CD. Tony Cummings reports.

Dawkins and Dawkins
Dawkins and Dawkins

In 1994 a new R&B gospel duo Dawkins And Dawkins were creating a bit of a stir Stateside. They cut a couple of pretty good albums for Benson, came to the UK for a few gigs and made it onto Cross Rhythms' cover (issue 24). Then, back in the US they seemed to disappear. No more albums, no more news. Now at last brothers Eric and Anson Dawkins have returned a little older, a little wiser and with a scorching album 'Focus' for Harmony Records, to take the Gospel story onto the streets.

"What we really want to do," Anson told CCM magazine, "is to affect the lives of young people, those that are listening to really polluted and perverted lyrics of today. There are a lot of hopeless young people out there. We have the answer and that is in Christ. Everything else you can really live without. Jesus Christ is where it's at."

Singing Jesus' praises is, in fact, something the duo has been doing virtually all their lives. The sons of a Pentecostal preacher, Eric and Anson began performing in church when there were only four and five years old and would often travel with their father to help minister at revival meetings. Nearly two decades later, with a bit more musicianship under their belts (Eric became an accomplished pianist; Anson, a talented drummer and trumpeter), the two hit the road in the early '90s as hired musicians and opening act for the popular R&B/gospel group Commissioned.
"That was really a crash course in the music industry - the ins and outs, the do's and don'ts. We had a chance to work on Commissioned's 'Number 7' project, writing and singing, being in the studio hours on end, practising their technique and their style. And being with them created some other relationships with other artists and people in the industry, it helped us to really develop in the industry. It helped us to really develop a writing style, really develop our skills," Anson said.

The downside? When it came to breaking out on their own, Eric and Anson came out with a hip hop flavoured, self titled debut album from Benson that was, in Anson's estimation, "very Commissioned-esque." "Yeah," agreed Eric. "We were Commissioned -," he paused, searching for the exact word, "clones." "Clones," offered Anson at almost the exact same instant.

The brothers both chuckle, their voices blending together seamlessly even in laughter. "When the first album came out," said Eric, "we had a song called 'Everybody Needs Somebody' that was kinda popular. But I'd run across some people that, when we sang the song, they were like, 'Y'all sing that? I thought Commissioned has a new album out. I didn't know that was y'all.' That was one of the turning points for us." As much as the brothers valued and were grateful for their time with the group that helped give them their start in the music industry, "We didn't want to get stuck under the Commissioned umbrella. From that point on, we both started trying to figure out; 'Okay, how are we going to get away from this and start creating our own identity?'

With 'Necessary Measures', their second release, "We stepped out a little further, you know, got with some different producers," said Eric. But, said Anson, "We were still not having creative control."

The search for a sound and identity that was uniquely their own continued over the next four years. During that time, Anson became the minister of music at Covenant Christian Centre in Seattle, Washington. He also funded Rhythm And Praise, the production company he now shares with Eric, and the brothers started working with a wide range of local and national artists, including Yolanda Adams and CeCe Winans. In addition, Eric starred in five outreach-based, off-Broadway gospel musicals with legends such as Melba Moore, Shirley Murdock, Holly Woodson from the Temptations and Ronnie Wilson from The Gap Band.

"We've been really trying to continue to allow God to use us," said Anson, "and see what he really wants us to do."

Throughout those years the brothers continued to write music and lyrics for themselves and other artists, to grow, both spiritually and artistically, and to dream of a day when they could work on a project that would allow them, Eric says, "to have creative control and come out with something that everybody can enjoy." With the 'Focus' album they've done just that.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.