Kurt Carr has plenty of reasons to celebrate

Gospel recording star Kurt Carr learned from the late great Rev. James Cleveland. — TRIBUNE PHOTO BY MICHAEL ROBINSON

On Jan. 24, gospel royalty was in Philadelphia to celebrate the release of his 7th album. Kurt Carr’s latest CD, “Bless This House,” features 17 songs. A throng of adoring fans turned out to celebrate Carr during a CD signing at The Sound of Market music store downtown Philadelphia.

He also performed a mini concert at Sharon Baptist Church where Bishop Keith W. Reed Sr. is the senior pastor. Carr is good friends with Bryant Pugh, the minister of music at Sharon Baptist. Pugh is a popular keyboardist for many A-List gospel artists.

Known for such enduring hits as “I Almost Let Go,” “In the Sanctuary” and the classic “For Every Mountain,” Carr’s new CD release appears destined to jettison to chart topping success and undisputed musical acclaim. His new single, “I’ve Seen Him Do It,” is the #2 christian & gospel song on iTunes.

Carr’s new release “Bless This House” (Verity Gospel Music Group) offers a great variety of diverse music. From the fully orchestrated “Let Everything That Has Breath Praise,” featuring praise and worship leader extraordinaire Dr. Judith McAllister, to the testimonial driven “I’ve Seen Him Do It,” even the most discerning gospel music aficionado will enjoy this album.

“I’m on this mountain, but trust me, I just came out of a valley,” said Carr. “Usually, whenever you go to a mountaintop, there’s been a valley preceding it. So, God is just so faithful, that’s what makes me smile.”

Carr said his adversities fuel his drive to remain positive to minister great music and to remain ever faithful in God.

“Everything works together for our good,” he said. “So, why doubt Him — we repent, we get up, go again, and trust God some more.”

Carr doesn’t define his success by chart topping numbers or unit sales. His focus goes deeper.

“My success is doing the will of God,” he said. “I was in Africa, of all places, and a pastor said ‘If you have a 10 thousand member church in France, but God called you to be a pastor of a church of 50 members in Kentucky, you’re out of the will of God.’ Success is not determined by numbers and figures, and those kinds of things, it is by doing the will of God, doing what God has called you to do.”

Whether he has had music on the charts or not, Carr believes that what has kept him relevant is his ability to fulfill God’s will by using his spiritual gift of music to minister to people worldwide.

“I’ve got a song on the record called ‘We Got to Put Jesus Back’ — number one, that’s where he belongs, put Jesus back first,” he said.

Prior to his recent double CDs’ release, Carr had been writing new music for two years. During that two year period of writing new songs, Carr was also producing and writing music for the legendary Shirley Caesar, in total, he had written over 30 songs, “That’s why I had to do a double album, cause I couldn’t, [the songs] are like my children, I couldn’t get rid of any of them, I had to do a double album. So, I had almost 20 songs, and we were scheduled to start recording at noon in Los Angeles. All my singers, from all across the country were there, waiting in the studio for me, and at 4 a.m. God gave me the song ‘Bless This House.’ And I knew, from when I started singing into my tape recorder that I have, that it wasn’t just the song, it was the title. It summarizes the whole album, cause it’s an album that I want to bless the house of God, and bless people’s homes.”

Carr graduated from the University of Hartford in 1986 with a degree in music. He later trekked to Los Angeles and became the music director and pianist for the legendary Rev. James Cleveland.

Carr credits Cleveland as being one of his greatest mentors, “I actually got my start with Rev. James Cleveland. Philly was his town. We were here more than any other city. I remember at one time, we were [performing] at five different churches in one week. And all of them were packed.”

To cap off his celebration of 20 years in the music industry, Carr was recently given special recognition in Memphis, Tenn., by a music promoter.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “The city of Memphis shut down. I was blown away.”

More than 20 different artists came out to honor Carr at the celebration by singing his music. Carr also recently received a BMI Trailblazer Award and at the 2013 Stellar Awards, he was awarded The James Cleveland Life Time Achievement Award.

“It’s amazing how God does full-circle moments. I’m just so honored to have received an award in the name of my mentor, Reverend Cleveland,” he said

Carr joked that his choir members, The Kurt Carr Singers, profess that he’s two people.

“I’m not bi-polar,” mused Carr.

On stage, Carr is electric and very high energy in his concert performances, but off stage, he’s an extreme introvert, preferring a life of solitude to recharge to minister effectively to the people of God. To keep up his frenetic stage performances, Carr has shed more than 24 pounds. He said he feels great.

Carr laments over the perilous times that are unfurling in society, particularly mourning the tragedy of the recent shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

“We are living in days where people need hope and strength, and I pray that this album will bless the houses of the people,” he said.

Carr had early roots growing up near the Philadelphia area. He spent time growing up in Lawnside, N.J. He is extremely fond of Philadelphia.

“At one point, Philly was a booming place for gospel,” he said. “And I believe it can happen again. It was the gospel mecca at one point.”

A little known fact that Carr revealed, his mother named him after the actor Kirk Douglas but misspelled the first name. Carr is proud of the unique spelling of his name Kurt because it has distinguished him from his friend and original record label mate Kirk Franklin.

“Gospo Centric, which was the biggest independent label of all time; [it was] one of the biggest independent label of all times because of my success and Kirk Franklin’s success, Vicki Mack (Lataillade) sold almost 20 million records. Unprecedented,” said Carr, who is now with Sony/Verity Records.

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