Reviewed by Mike Rimmer
Spotlight Basement Jaxx To Bible Tracts
If you caught Kirk Franklin's London gig at the end of March, you may have seen Gwyn Jay Allen who opened the show. Or maybe you're familiar with him through his work with Basement Jaxx and his solo single "I Luv U Babe". But if you've never come across him, you really need to hear this! Blending together jazz, R&B, African and pop styles and delivering the songs in a superb soulful voice, 'Land Of Milk And Money' is the best independently recorded CD I've heard this year. The songs themselves are totally God focused ranging from the worship of "Holy One" and the gentle worship of "Dwelling Place" through to the African closer "Na So Dem Sa" and the opening title cut which sounds fresh and funky enough to be straight out of the charts. What I really like about the album is that Gwyn Jay Allen has chosen to push the boundaries a little and incorporate so many different influences. Outstanding is the spontaneous jam "Crying Out" which is a yearning prayer and then there's his choice of the classic spiritual "Nobody Knows The Troubles I've Seen" which is stripped down to a simple organ accompaniment and Gwyn's raspy vocals. Simply put, this is brilliant gospel music and essential listening.
Gwyn Jay Allen spoke to Mike Rimmer.
Tell me about working with Basement Jaxx. How did that come about and what did you do?
I got recommended by a recording studio I had worked for and they called up on that recommendation. I initially did lead and backing vocals on a few of their singles on their label Atlantic Jaxx, a few live gigs with them. Got on really well with them. They are quite down to earth. I played them a song which I wrote back in '87, "I Luv U Babe", in the studio and they loved it and wanted to record it. We eventually did it after the huge success of their first album, which only did me justice.
You recently opened for Kirk Franklin in London. What are your memories of that night?
I am still floating on air, man! 6000 people at the Royal Albert Hall, you can't get better than that. Well in the UK that is, or can ya? The week running up to the gig I was bursting to get on the stage. I would walk around singing out loud with my headphones on in the train only to realise the day had not come yet. The performance was over all too quick. 45 minutes. But whilst I was on stage it was electric. It was as if I had been there many times before. But God is great. He made it possible for us to record, mix, master, design, manufacture and launch the album on that day all in two weeks.
How did you become a Christian?
I love this part. I was running along Oxford Street at about 9pm mid June 1983 to get a Kentucky when a man of about 40 years stopped me in mid flight and asked me that all important question. Are you a Christian? Well it took him about seven minutes to prove to me that wearing a cross did not make you a Christian and that I needed to repent of my sin and give my life to Jesus. Well, I repeated the sinner's prayer and the rest is history.
What's your vision for the album?
To meet all the unsaved. My call is very clear as it has come directly from our Father. Go into the world and tell them of the good news. Mine just happens to be through song/performance. I truly believe that being out there supported by your local church is what it's all about. I am ready to perform in places like a book shop and to the ends of the earth with this album.
It's wonderfully diverse musically. Tell me about that and about your African roots.
My parents are from Sierra Leone, I was born in Loughborough but spent 18 years of my life in Sierra Leone. I was also a hostage for a day in the last war in '99. Too much to say. I will continue. I also won my heat and went to the final in Stars In Their Eyes in 1997.
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