03/11/10 — Singer will debut new album at home

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Singer will debut new album at home

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 11, 2010 1:46 PM

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Goldsboro gospel artist Janice Brown is keeping her CD release party in her hometown area instead of having it in Nashville. The CD, "Alive and Well," on which she sings with record producer Monte Stephens, will debut Sunday at 4 p.m. St. Mary United Holy Church in Comfort, N.C.

In Nashville -- AKA Music City -- it's not unusual to hear about record release parties every other week, says Monte Stephens, a record producer with Freedom Records.

So when it came time to debut the gospel CD of Goldsboro artist Janice Brown, he decided to bring the celebration to her home turf.

"Instead of having everyone drive 700 miles, get a motel, I thought, if we take it there, all the people that know Janice, they can attend, family can come," he said. "So we're doing something totally different."

The debut of "Alive and Well" will be commemorated during a special service at St. Mary United Holy Church in Comfort at 4 p.m. Sunday. It will coincide with the 110th anniversary celebration of the church, where Ms. Brown serves as pastor.

The CD features both Ms. Brown and Stephens, who is also an evangelist.

"I'm so blessed to be singing with her," Stephens said.

Especially since their unique partnership almost didn't happen.

Back in the 1980s, Ms. Brown had released about nine albums -- one nominated for a Grammy -- performed at President Ronald Reagan's first inaugural ball and traveled around the world promoting her music.

Stephens, meanwhile, had carved out his own successful career in the Nashville area, boasting three No. 1 songs, six international top 20 hits and 12 Grammy nominations.

He was familiar with Ms. Brown from his days as owner of a gospel radio station. The two had briefly crossed paths, but lost contact for nearly 20 years.

It was when his now-deceased wife Dee heard one of Ms. Brown's records, though, that Stephens decided to track down the singer, which led to their collaborating on an album.

Visually, it was a unique pairing -- the elegant black woman and the lanky country preacher -- who now call themselves "Ebony and Ivory."

Categorizing their musical genre was even more challenging.

"It's hard to categorize the genre but the songs, they have a message," Stephens said. "I can't put my finger on it myself. They call me the 'Godfather of Christian Country' and she sings black gospel. My son says, 'Maybe it's Motown meets the Grand Old Opry.'

"It's just a divine appointment by God that she and I didn't dream up."

It's also been a burgeoning friendship based on mutual respect and Christian faith, the two say.

They have spent recent months putting the finishing touches on the new album, which features eight songs. And last month, the duo traveled together to the Grammy's in Los Angeles, where they enjoyed being in the audience for the telecast and attending after parties.

Ms. Brown said it has been a humorous turn of events to have people tease her about being a celebrity, even asking her what it's like to be "famous."

"I say, I don't know, I don't ever want to know how it feels to be famous 'cause the Bible tells me to be humble," she said. "My talent is a God-given gift and I can't exploit that."

Her producer, collaborator and friend said he is just happy to be a part of her newfound success. And even more so, to be able to share it in a familiar setting as she launches a musical tour that includes North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

"Most of your big people in the music business, they make it big and go back to the humble beginnings. She's pastoring a country church. It's not waiting until this becomes extremely successful," he said. "No, no. She's going to start right where she's at. We want to let them see her where it's starting, not where it used to be."

St. Mary United Holy Church is in Jones County, at 176 Davis St. in Comfort, which is off N.C. 41 East. For more information on the debut release service, call 735-5525.