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This Is Who I Am - Click to view!Like many longtime members of successful music groups, Jody McBrayer needed to spread his creative wings. In 2002, his band Avalon could do no wrong with multiple Dove Awards, a Grammy nod and several #1 hits like "Wonder Why" and "Testify to Love." During the group's hiatus, he set his sights on an outside musical endeavor. Going solo is always a risky move, but McBrayer cushioned his fall by not straying too far from that signature Avalon sound.

This Is Who I Am brings out McBrayer's R&B/Gospel side while still keeping the melodies light and pop-like. The funky beats are infectious on up-tempo songs like "Take a Step (1, 2, 3)." On that track, McBrayer compares to Justin Timberlake's first solo single "Like I Love You," complete with similar rhythms and a wide vocal range. McBrayer also explores his Latin roots with a few lyrics in Español and heavy Spanish guitar on many of the songs. He recorded the dance-worthy duet, "Never Alone (Nunca Solo)", with fellow Sparrow Records artist Jadyn Maria and collaborates with The Katinas on "Shake It."

McBrayer's androgynous vocals had me and a few other disc jockeys scratching our heads. If you're not paying attention, McBrayer can pass for Kathy Troccoli singing up an octave, and his high notes near a soprano. Yet, in other moments, he possesses deep, earthy growls. The Michael Jackson-esque singing style may confuse first-time listeners; however, the strength behind that voice is undeniably breathtaking.

No Avalon-inspired album is complete without a few power ballads, and McBrayer's solo debut is no exception. Tracks such as "The Only Thing That Matters" showcase McBrayer's strong, velvety voice singing inspirational lyrics co-penned by the himself. Song writing credits also include Mariah Carey, David Foster, and Diane Warren on the song "There For Me", which McBrayer sings as an ode to his late father.

This Is Who I Am is not without a message in the music. McBrayer tackles racial prejudice in "Shake It" and deals with a broken heart in "Love Can Break Your Fall." "To Ever Live Without Me" is a deeply personal view of Christ's sacrifice and justly stands out on the album. McBrayer uses his poetic license in describing the crucifixion ("As You knelt there in the garden / 'Neath the olive tree / You heard me call Your name") and sees Jesus' suffering as a selfless act of love ("It was all about a freedom / That was given through Your sacrifice / 'Cause You would rather die / Than to ever live without me").

As contemporary Top 40 albums go, few artists can touch the vocal mastery of Avalon. On This Is Who I Am, Jody McBrayer embraces his pop origins while adding new urban elements to spice up his flow. He created a beautiful breakout success with personal touches that give old fans something fresh and introduces new fans to who he is. The strong vocals and meaningful lyrics make his solo debut a pleasure to the ears and food for the soul.
- Jennifer Jones
March 2004
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