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Mitra Arthur | September 9, 2021
Pastor T.L. Barrett comes to this Tiny Desk (home) concert from his spiritual home, the Chicago church he has pastored for over 40 years. His choir, the Royal Voices of Life, and the band are positioned in front of a dazzlingly lit stained-glass window. A tambourine is at the ready. The sight is familiar to anyone familiar with churches that anchor their neighborhood.
Starting in 1971, Pastor Barrett released a series of albums that integrated soul and funk elements, all backed by a 45-member ensemble. Some of those former youths still perform with him today. At one point, his congregation included Donny Hathaway and members of Earth, Wind & Fire. Barrett’s music has had a resurgence of late — his records have been sampled by Kanye West and DJ Khaled, songs have been featured in movies and commercials, and the label Numero Group will soon release a career-spanning box set.
Pastor Barrett opens this Tiny Desk (home) concert with “I Shall Wear a Crown,” reminding the choir, “Let the people know you like it!” His most well-known song, “Like a Ship,” retains the groove of the 1971 original; the song encourages that, despite the pain, you can shake it. In the rolling, soul-drenched take on “Nobody Knows,” Barrett cautions: “This is a mean world to try to live in / But you’ve got to stay ahead until you die.” A church member sitting in the front pew, decked out in a wide brim hat, raises her hands in praise. This is not a concert; this is worship.
“I Shall Wear A Crown”
“Like A Ship”
Pastor T.L. Barrett: vocals & piano
Wayne Barrett: lead guitar
Carlos Patterson: organ
Timothy Fullerton: bass guitar
Quinn Anderson: drums
Minister Ykheera, Minister Jahaira, Vera Sharp: choir (sopranos)
Deborah Thomas, Barbara Blake, Doresse Scott, Rosalind Thomas, Steve Lucas, T.L. Barrett, III: choir (tenors)
Christine Robinson, Ceceria Robinson, Jeanette Reynolds, Michele Marshal, Zelma Evans: choir (altos)
Video and Editing: Adam Luksetich
Cameras: Alex Pennacchia, Chris Vanderwall, Ed Bornstein
Producers: Stephen Arndt, Rob Sevier, Ken Shipley, Ed Bornstein
Audio: Kenneth Klemaier
Music Director: Dwayne Barrett
TINY DESK TEAM
Producer: Bob Boilen
Video Producer: Maia Stern
Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
Tiny Production Team: Bobby Carter, Kara Frame, Gabrielle Pierre
Executive Producer: Keith Jenkins
Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann