Singer Kenny Gardner, standing, and album producer Dennis McKay listen to tracks in McKay’s Studio 115A in Columbus. Gardner’s just-released gospel CD, “Friends’ Request: Admit One,” will be featured at a CD signing at New Life Christian Supplies Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Photo by: Micah Green/Dispatch Staff
June 15, 2013 3:29:14 PM
Kenny Gardner has been singing since he was 3 years old, spreading the gospel with his dad, Bro. James Gardner. He's even recorded a few albums along the way. But for the past 12 years, as he founded and pastored Columbus Christian Center, the idea of going back into the studio simmered on a back burner. Until now.
"Friends' Request: Admit One" is a new 11-track CD recently completed by Gardner and producer Dennis McKay at McKay's Studio 115A in East Columbus, for his MAC Records label.
The two set out to record a diverse selection of songs by writers such as Andraé Crouch, Gerald Crabb and Vince Gill. The goal, however was to make each track unique to Gardner, to add something that hadn't been done before with them. So listeners should not be surprised to hear a reggae influence here, a blues styling there. What each track has in common, though, is Gardner's strong voice and deep conviction.
"I can't express enough how important I believe music is," said the Columbus native. "People will listen to a song when they won't go to church. Music widens the road you need to minister to people."
Sharing the faith
Working with McKay was, in a sense, working with a kindred soul; they've known each oher for years. Like Gardner, McKay comes from a gospel-singing family. He and his wife, Leslie, currently perform gospel as The McKay Project.
"I grew up on a tour bus; we traveled all over, especially the Southeast, doing concerts," said McKay, who is also a preacher's son.
With multi-instrumentalist Ronnie McGee of Columbus contributing valuable input to the process, the CD's arrangements evolved. An experienced cast of musicians surrounding Gardner's lead vocals includes McKay on bass, rhythm and lead guitar, harmonica and drum tracks. McGee is on keys, organ, horns, sax and steel drums. Raymond Miller of Starkville contributes steel guitar.
Former Grand Ole Opry fiddler Jim Brock of Aliceville, Ala., brought his deft fiddle work to the project. Brock has actually performed the Vince Gill track on Gardner's CD with Gill himself.
Backup vocalists add to the full sound. They include Gardner's daughter, Ashlee Gardner Moore, Lee Ann Wilson Griffin, Krashaun Hendrix, McKay, McGee and members of the Maranatha Faith Center Choir of Columbus.
A brief bonus track features a very special guest -- 4-year-old Jackson Moore, one of Gardner's grandsons. He gives "Pop a groove" on the cajon, a box-shaped percussion instrument, and delivers a message of his own.
Each track is significant in its own way to Gardner.
"'Black Sheep,' for instance, is in memory of my late father-in-law, Joe Miller. It was his signature song, so this was kind of a surprise for my wife, Deborah, and her family. There was nobody in the world who loved singing more than my father-in-law," the musical minister shared.
"Friends' Request" is just that, songs those around Gardner have asked him to sing. The disc cover art's "Admit One" image of a ticket is more than just graphic design; its meaning becomes clear in the liner notes, under a photo of Gardner reading the Bible with grandsons Jackson and Landon. Gardner's quote there, "Listen, my sons, this is your ticket for life" is advice he's given more than once.
When the project that drew the pastor back into the studio after a long hiatus first got underway, he remarked to the McKays that it was "way past time." To which he got this answer: "No, it's right on time."
New Life Christian Supplies, 1920 Highway 45 N., Columbus, will host a CD signing Saturday, June 22 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The CD will be available there, as well as at sites including iTunes and CDBaby.
The first single, "I've Got Confidence," is getting radio play, and a video clip on YouTube is generating good response. McKay is working toward national distribution.
"I'm really excited about this project," said the producer. "To take an idea and then see the end result and how it came out ... there's no way to describe how it feels when something comes together."
For more information about the signing or CD, contact McKay at 662-889-2829.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.