Sanctified soul 

Not your mama's church music

Ann Nesby's This Is Love, which Shanachie Entertainment released last month, will satisfy her longtime fans. That audience spans from the gospel lovers who followed her work as part of Sounds of Blackness to the soul-house dancers who hear her tracks spun at local house music parties like Sweat and Volume. And there are the "American Idol" watchers, too, who often heard her name mentioned when Nesby's teenage granddaughter Paris Bennett made a failed run during the 2006 competition.

Nesby's voice is big and strong, and she's not afraid to use it. While other singers wait until the second verse to let loose their wails, Nesby starts blowing hard before the first chorus. It's a take-it-or-leave-it quality that may turn off people who don't like all the shouting and hollering typical of modern-day gospel. Nesby, who also goes by the pen name Lula Lee, packs This Is Love with over-the-top emotions and declarations, but she also composed most of its lyrics and vocal arrangements, giving the album a classic vibe that doesn't descend into contemporary jazz irrelevance.

The production on This Is Love spans from the sweeping string arrangements and light disco vibe of "I Can't Explain It" to the '70s-inspired balladry of "I Apologize." "It's So Easy Lovin' U," produced by Baltimore house veteran DJ Spen, marries Nesby's exhortations of fidelity with a kinetic garage track. This Is Love is about love and romance, but it's tinged with spiritual fervor, as Nesby frequently relies on God to guide her through relationships. Perhaps that's why she's billed as the "Queen of Inspirational Soul" – she sings about love, but never forgets the church.

To hear "I Apologize" from Ann Nesby's new release, click here.


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