For decades, CeCe Winans has been putting out skillfully produced music that challenges even non-believers not to wonder that hers must be a gift from God. She opens her heart when she sings, sharing with ease and love her passion for worship in such a perfect, beautiful timbre, it could melt for a moment, or for forever, the ice in any soul.
Further miraculous, this angel’s voice is not simply a product of the production studio. Witnessing her talents live, as Libro Musica got to do in June of 2017 at Center Stage Theater, Atlanta, is a jaw-dropping, moving experience. CeCe was born into a lifetime of constant exposure to and experience building and providing deeply moving live musical performances. With a gene pool that includes a talented mother, father, and brother, themselves commercially-notable gospel singers, and a solid, rich church community base steeped in musical tradition, CeCe Winan’s innate talent has from the very beginnings of her life been supported with training, practice, and high bars to live up to. It shows, no mixing board required.
In 2017, her album release Let Them Fall In Love, has earned a Grammy nomination for Best Gospel Album, and her sweet Whitney Houston-reminiscent track on that album, “Never Have to Be Alone,” a nom for Best Gospel Performance.
In fact, she has won these categories, as released in today’s 2018 Grammy Awards announcements, and her work behind these two awards had garnered her twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh Grammy nominations.
The album spans a variety of source genre’s, from the 80’s R&B of “Never Have to Be Alone,” to traditional-spiritual swing of “He’s Never Failed Me Yet,” to the roof-raising Motown-funk-soul of “Dancing in the Spirit,” to the booty-shaking 60s R&B-rock of “Hey Devil! (get behind me).” The latter is so firmly seated in its gritty horns ‘n organ Ray Charles essence, she even ad libs at the end, “Hit the road, jack, and never come back no more!”
The Burt Bacharach-rooted “Run to Him,” is so easily lovable, I play it on repeat and find myself happily running to His living water, whatever that might mean.
“Let Them Fall In Love,” an ultra-retro symphony-backed track that sounds like a love song from a 40’s musical, is in fact a plea and a prayer that the faithless find their path to God, through Christ. It’s genius-writing, ultra-blessed performing and highly-skilled producing of music like Winans’ that will shine the clearest beacon to a lonely soul.
CeCe Winans has ventured into mainstream R&B romantic pop, with her 1998 album, Everlasting Love. I can clearly hear tones echoing Toni Braxton and Janet Jackson, and of course Whitney Houston, a lifetime friend of Winans’. In listening to it, I came upon a lovely simple-melodied song, “The Wind (Tears for You),” that I instantly knew was one that I know and love, but it took me a while to figure out from where I knew it.
This Tommy Sims-penned track (he also wrote the title track and many other Winans songs) has been rebooted as “Driftin’ Away,” performed by Garth Brooks, in his 1999 experimental pop opus, The Life of Chris Gaines (Greatest Hits), a work I have to admit is a guilty pleasure of mine. I can’t find a recording of this song off Brooks’ much-maligned album, but if you can find it somewhere, this one in particular is achingly gorgeous.
With all of my heart, I know I could love you
With all of my soul, I’m drifting away
And with all of my mind, I know you could save me from myself
And anything else
With all of my strength, I wanna reach out for you
With every breath, call out your name
With every step, I just wanna turn around and say
Make it okay
Even Winan’s love songs sound like worship to God, and her worship songs sound like a whole lot of love, because they are. Cece Winans, the best selling female gospel artist of all time, is a joy to watch and to listen to her share her gifts — in joy — to comfort and raise spirits, and for that, she has my deep respect.