Rarely does a new artist have the backing of two record
labels, five award-winning producers manning the boards, and the experience
of touring around the world with two of the most sought-after performers in
the gospel genre. But when Vanessa Williams releases her debut solo album in
May, she will have accomplished all of the above.
“Vanessa,” as the project is simply titled, will be released as part of a
strategic partnership between Light Records and Bajada Records, the
Detroit-based label founded by Bishop Andrew and Pastor Viveca Merritt,
pastors of the Straight Gate Church. Produced by Fred Hammond, Richard
Smallwood, PAJAM, Kevin Bond, and Steven Ford, the CD will showcase the vocal
versatility of Vanessa, something her comrades are already familiar with.
“Vanessa has been a part of my ministry for many years now,” says multi-award
winning songwriter/vocalist, Richard Smallwood. “She was a part of the
Smallwood singers as well as a founding member of Vision. She is an anointed
gifted singer, with the voice of an angel. Vanessa is a young lady who
sincerely loves God and whose phenomenal musical ability has and will
continue to bless many.”
In 1994, Williams began traveling with the “Smallwood Singers” across the
United States, as well as visiting Norway, Guadeloupe, Paris and Venezuela.
She continued with Smallwood after the group “Vision” was formed in 1996.
“Richard shared his plans for a larger group project, and asked me if I’d
participate,” recalls Williams. “That was a no-brainer.” As a member of
Smallwood’s Vision, she recorded the breathtaking “Angels” with Maurette
Brown-Clark, “Oh What a Night” with Darlene Simmons, and the Dove Award-
nominated anthem “Holy Thou Art God.” Also in 1996, Williams sang background
vocals on the project Yolanda Adams: Live In Washington, and participated in
the “Federation Francaise de Gospel: The Best of Gospel on Tour” with
Tramaine Hawkins and the Richard Smallwood Singers in Paris and Strasbourg,
France. In 1997, she sang background vocals on the Canton Spirituals’ Living
the Dream: Live In Washington. She also sang on the Grammy-award winning
Yolanda Adams’ project Mountain High, Valley Low.
An elementary art teacher for the past 15 years, Williams also serves as Key
Coordinator for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ “Art for
Every Student Program.” Additionally, she is the school coordinator for the
nationally-acclaimed “Best Friends” program for fifth grade girls at Patricia
Roberts Harris Educational Center in Southeast Washington D.C.
“Vanessa is poised to be the best new artist in gospel this year,” says
Phillip White, GM and VP of Light Records. “Her talent is unsurpassed,
coupled with an extensive resume’ of highly successful endeavors. Vanessa is
the perfect example of the kinds of artists we will be partnering with as we
continue to build on the outstanding tradition of great gospel music the
Light imprint has always embodied.”
The street date for “Vanessa” is scheduled for May 7. Williams will be on
tour with Richard Smallwood and Vision now through the summer.
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