It pays to take your time before stepping out on your own. It took Myron Butler several years as a choir director, vocal arranger, producer, and backup singer for the likes of Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, and Ted & Sheri before deciding to go it alone. He couldn't have made a better move: Set Me Free, his debut as the titular artist, sounds nothing like a first album. Instead, it sounds like something a seasoned veteran might record, a contemporary gospel gem with so much style it outpaces more ordinary first outings in the genre. In Butler's world, vocals are king, so he makes sure his talented singing troupe, Levi, follows his careful, elegant arrangements, never overpowering unless the track calls for it, like the rhythmic, roof-blowing "Set Me Free" -- unquestionably the most infectious gospel single of 2005. But that's the exception: for a group this young and energetic, it's a pleasant surprise how unconcerned they are with keeping things hip and trendy -- there's not an ounce of banal urbanized gospel to be found here. Butler is a classic gospel head, so his forté lies in crafting beautiful, expertly rendered neo-choral sonatas, old-school enough to please purists, yet with a new-school vibrancy to reel in newer generations. Nearly all the songs on Set Me Free fall within tried-and-true contemporary gospel territory, but they're exquisitely executed, to the point that it's actually difficult to find fault with them. A talent to watch.
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