The Heavenly Stars, an
old-school ensemble of four vocalists with back-up band, have
long been international ambassadors of New Orleans-style gospel
music, performing an historic repertoire whose roots reach back
to slave spirituals and featuring unadorned arrangements built
around classic, four-part, male harmony.
The group’s “old-time
religion” has brought great joy to audiences around the globe,
from Japan, where the group was featured in a Japanese TV
special, to Europe and the Scandinavian countries, where The
Heavenly Stars headlined a “Spirit of Louisiana” tour through
the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, and Sweden.
The secret behind The
Heavenly Stars success is simplicity – performing gospel
favorites as sincerely as possible without unnecessary
showmanship or pyrotechnics.
Once in a while, the
group will add a slightly jazzy element, such as the chorded
guitar intro to “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In” or the forceful
piano accompaniment to “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” but more
often The Heavenly Stars opt for the kind of understated
elegance that characterizes “Oh, Happy Day,” with its extended
guitar/drum intro giving way to softly articulated lyrics.
The group’s reliance
on classic harmony is its greatest strength and can be heard to
optimum advantage on classics like “Amazing Grace,” “The Battle
Hymn of the Republic,” and especially the gorgeous, a cappella
“I’m So Glad.” Equally stunning is the group’s arrangement for
“Roll, Jordan, Roll,” with a bass lead vocal honoring the 1962
hit version by The Skylarks.
sincerity, and understated grace – for The Heavenly Stars, that
equals a heavenly combination.