Darrell Kelley’s new album cannot be clearer in its message. He is about teaching the gospel to the flock and every good teacher tries to put the word into digestible bites. The album’s title is the appetizer. “Here Ends the Lesson” (Viral Records) conveys as much meaning as any of the songs held within. He is telling you that this album is about knowledge. This is evident as he moves on to the first course called “Evil”. The song is a warning to the good people on earth to open their eyes to the evil that surrounds them. When you see levels of violence and those who scream at others in groups on TV, and those that commit crime against their neighbors, you have to say at some point this is unacceptable behavior. The sound is a departure from Darrell’s earlier works as well on “Evil”. A welcome guitar heavy track with subterranean drums and echoes gives this a track a sound that these ears have not heard before in the gospel field.
Unfortunately, the sound reverts to earlier days in the next song “Mama”. “Mama” is heartfelt enough lyrically but starts to strain when the vocal tries to reach for a melody in as key that is clearly beyond the singer’s capability. It tends to mitigate the impact that was achieved on the fresher more comfortable sounding first track. Darrell recovers quickly on the upbeat “Get Wild”, again stepping out of his production comfort zone and adding a rhythmic texture and hooks that gives this track a legit chance at being a secular hit as well as gospel one as well.
A listener can almost get whiplash of the mind going from the good time sentiment of “Get Wild” to the heavier admonishment of “Tell Jesus On You”. We can all say discrimination is not worth a damn. But acting like a snitch is not the best idea either and conceptually this can be confusing because the Lord Jesus knows us all and the people don’t have to tell Jesus anything. “Voices” treads the familiar Kelley sound and method of delivery, and drags along a bit. While the idea is fine and needs to be said the makeup of the song just sounds like a retread. Kelley quickly rights the ship with “God Is Good”. There is something about the piano rhythm and percussion and voices layered together that gives is a much fresher sound than on “Voices”.
The closing track, “Here Ends the Lesson”, begins with the one lesson we all should know, The Lord’s Prayer. On that basis this track has the potential to be the most widely accepted song. The slow groove and emphatic drums act as a conduit for the immortal words that never seem to grow stale. The only minor complaint would be that the vocals begin to become thin at certain points in the melody. The lesson is not lost on the listener, but one could use a bit more variety in the sound. That is where these tracks shine are when the production gets out of the rut and goes in a newer direction. When the lyrics vocals and production gel then this album rises up and reflects its own glory and God’s. That is a tough combo to beat.