Building up a big following, both in their American homeland and now in Europe, are R&B gospel duo DAWKINS AND DAWKINS. Tony Cummings reports.

Dawkins And Dawkins
Dawkins And Dawkins

Over an undulating dance groove the two voices, locked in wheezingly soulful harmony, ooze out the chorus "Word up, got to put/The Word down in your soul." Over and over again the hook hammers out until every listener and dancer has memorised the phrase. In the strange world of crossover, not every act with vocal chops honed in the Church would be prepared to make an assault at the dance scene with a song exhorting listeners to feed on the Word of God. But then brothers Anson and Eric Dawkins aren't two Christian opportunists looking to use Christian music as a launch pad to R&B stardom. The two, currently hitting Stateside with their successful second album 'Necessary Measures' for Benson, are working in CCM because they've received a call from God. The brothers were at college when they heard the Word.

"It was winter quarter, and we were having a lot of inspiration to do other things and we were really getting involved in music," remembers Eric Dawkins. "We had gotten the call (and) one thing led to another." The vehicle for the call was the immensely talented man-mountain known as Fred Hammond. Through a route that involved the Dawkins' old band being at a talent show in Youngstown, Ohio and the intervention of a friend (former Witness singer Liz Lee), the leader of Commissioned and hot record producer Hammond heard a demo by the raw student beginners Dawkins And Dawkins when visiting Lee. So it came to pass that Anson (now 25) and Eric (23) found themselves working on the Commissioned album 'Number 7' followed by a tour with one of crossover gospel's most renowned groups. In the blinking of an eye Dawkins And Dawkins were signed to Benson in their own right and began working on their eponymous debut album, co-produced not surprisingly by the literal R&B heavyweight, Hammond. It was an immediate success within CCM circles.

The brothers were born in Ohio. Their father was an itinerant evangelist and with their mother the brothers were a family trio. "When we were starting out, I guess about 3-5 (years old), my mother was the church organist, directing the choir and my father was preaching on the road," remembers Anson. "He used to take us on the road with him and travel all around the country and sing at different churches. We were kind of like his opening act. We got a lot of good crowd response because we were so young. We were ministering at that young age."

By the time the brothers had reached college their musical tastes had moved from traditional gospel to R&B - Kool And The Gang, Earth Wind And Fire and Boyz II Men were all influences. But their desire to convey spiritual truth remained firm. "We wanted to get a different audience that wouldn't normally hear gospel music... When they hear the beat, the bass, they're in it. So then we can hit them with the Word." Anson is convinced the Church needs to take whatever measures are necessary to reach a generation of youth completely outside the traditional sphere of influence of the church. This is reflected in the title of their second album.

"'Necessary Measures' was something that God gave me... I was writing down song titles, things that I was feeling in my spirit. The title is significant due to the fact that there are some unorthodox things that we may have to do as Christians in order to reach these individuals out on the streets," comments Anson.

"We know a lot of the drawing people towards the direction of Christ, for us, has to do with the music that we share," he adds. "Along with the message we're bringing and the life that we're living, that's part of the necessary measures that we're taking to win the lost. That's what the message of this album is all about - taking that final step, doing whatever you have to do within the parameters of the Word of God, to win the lost for Christ."

And music is what Dawkins And Dawkins do best - smooth R&B flavoured street pop. A key element of an album is the production team and the duo certainly had some top-notch inspiration - Tim Thomas, Ted Bishop, Jet Phenix and Fred Hammond all produced tracks on 'Necessary Measures', a bunch who previously lent their talents to Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Toni Braxton and Carman.

"Our ministry is geared towards the youth, those kids out on the street," says Anson. "We're not necessarily gearing our message to uplift those already in the church. Now don't get me wrong, we're not forgetting the church, because that's where we came from. But God's in the midst of raising up a new people to praise him. So most of what we're doing now, I would say, is geared toward those individuals who don't have a working relationship with God... We're just using all 'Necessary Measures' to convince them to come over to the winning side." CR

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.