It’s interesting to hear Lizz Wright start her new album with a cover of Meshell Ndegeocello’s “Fellowship.” Listen closely, and you hear similar qualities in both women’s voices. And where Ndegeocello shaped her plea for tolerance over a reggae beat, Wright plays it straight with rootsy simplicity, the song’s bass and drums pulsing in a head-nod-inducing lockstep.
Folks will want to call Fellowship, which was released on Sept. 27, a gospel album, but in some ways that misses the point. On one hand, this album is Wright’s invitation to experience the joy of American roots music as one might find it at a roadside juke joint. But in addition to her cover of Ndegeocello’s song, Wright’s interpretations of songs by Bernice Johnson Reagon (the Sweet Honey in the Rock vet guests on this CD as well), Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Angelique Kidjo, to name a few, give this album a wide-ranging appeal. It’s a powerful statement about the things we have in common and, in that regard, is a powerful balm for these divisive times. Wright wouldn’t be out of place performing at either a country music event or on a bill with, for example, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, another modern roots band.
My favorite track? The eight-minute “Gospel Medley.” Specifically, around the 3:49 mark, she launches into “Up Above My Head” and then into “Hold On Just a Little While Longer.” The combination of Wright and Johnson Reagon’s voices over Kenny Banks’ piano leaves me tingling. I could be done with the album at that point. It’s that good.
This review was originally published on TheRoot.com.