Da'Quela Payne is nothing if not determined and resolute. Having been rejected on American Idol she dusted herself down and bounced back, going on to win the gospel equivalent Gifted for which her reward was a recording contract with EMI which nicely leads us to 'Blue Sky'. This is a confident and assured debut which you would expect with the weight of EMI Gospel behind it and the considerable talents of Kyle Lovett, Andy Selby and Darwin Hobbs in the mix. Indeed her ballad with Hobbs "Never Far Away" shows us why she rose to the top with an assurance and depth lyrically, matched by a performance which embraces and lifts the listener. This is a good and competent offering without actually pushing the boat out, rather having a tendency to play it safe and therefore having a gospel album-by-numbers feel about it. That is not to say it doesn't have its moments and songs like "Incredible" and the reworking of "Psalm 23" standing out. Where it slightly disappoints are the more up tempo songs which seem forced and over-produced, with Da'Quela seeming out of her comfort zone. This is a promising start from Da'Quela and points to good things to come with some exceptional highs but the inconsistency shows that this is still a work in progress.
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