Sidney Mills taps into gospel roots

Sidney Mills taps into gospel roots

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Thursday, August 13, 2020

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A look at Sidney Mills' résumé reveals an impressive list of musician/production credits from Steel Pulse, Beres Hammond and Dennis Brown to Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones and R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe.

Yet, for his latest projects, the veteran keyboardist worked with two unknown gospel acts Prophetess Guy and Minister Jean Fray. He produced their songs Hear O Lord and He Touched Me, respectively, for his SPIMusicInc company.

The London-born Mills grew up in Jamaica before moving to New York in his early 20s. He told the Jamaica Observer that recording Hear O Lord revived memories of his youth.

“From being Jamaican and singing in school choirs at Airy Castle Primary in St Thomas and Happy Grove High in Portland, we learned this song. As a kid, I had to go to church, so gospel became a part of my fabric and upbringing,” he recalled. “However, I was only privy to one version. It was not until later I learnt that there were other versions. When Prophetess Guy came with the idea, I thought it would be a cool song to do. Bringing back those memories of growing up with such a meaningful song.”

Prophetess Guy (Erica Lewis-Guy) is from Christiana, Manchester, where she was raised in the Pentecostal church. She launched her recording career last December with My Redeemer Lives, produced by Mills, who also guided Minister Jean Fray on He Touched Me, her first song.

Fray is from Trelawny and although raised as a member of the United church, has always admired the energy of the pocomania church. That sound drives her version of He Touched Me a standard written by Bob Gaither.

Mills said working with gospel acts is not new to him.

“Over the years, operating my studio in New York, when Barrington Bailey and myself had setups in New York City and Brooklyn, we would service an array of clients from hip hop, reggae, R&B as well as gospel clients. Gospel artistes would come through and after a while I started working with Brotha George in that same genre mixed with reggae. I believe they felt that our space was a comfortable atmosphere to work in and express their thoughts,” he explained.

Brotha George, like Prophetess Guy and Minister Jean Fray, is Jamaican and based in the tri-state area. He made his name in secular music before switching to gospel 15 years ago.

Sidney Mills joined Steel Pulse in 1988 and was part of its recording team up to last year when the British band released Mass Manipulation. It was nominated for the Best Reggae Album Grammy Award this year.

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