Going live with Kevin Downswell

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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In its heyday, the live album captured artistes at the pinnacle of their careers. They were usually released when a performer was established, with a cache of songs under their belts.

Kevin Downswell feels he has reached that stage, hence his Realignment: The Live Encounter album which was released by Tuff Gong International in June. Last Saturday, the gospel singer was in South Florida for a meet-and-greet with fans at VP Records' Miramar office.

The 'Realignment' concert was recorded in July last year at Jamaica College. Downswell told the Jamaica Observer that he has always wanted to do a live album, and the JC show captured him and his band in their element.

“Number one, we never expected that amount of people, and the energy level went up a notch. They knew they were part of something special,” he said.

There are 17 songs on Realignment including the anthems If It's Not You and You Make Me Stronger, which enhanced Downswell's growing reputation as a mainstream act. Both songs were released in 2012 as part of his The Search Continues album.

According to Downswell, he never sets out to duplicate If It's Not You or You Make Me Stronger.

“I never feel pressured to do that. I have seen so many one-hit wonders who try to rewrite that hit, but I don't try to write another Stronger or If It's Not You…when I wrote those songs it was simply a connection with God,” he said.

With Tuff Gong's considerable muscle, Downswell hopes Realignment will connect with different markets. He is looking at launching a global tour in October, with dates throughout the United States as well as spreading his message to virgin regions like Africa which he describes as “a massive market”.

Realignment: The Live Encounter is Downswell's fourth album. His first, Close to You, came out in 2008 followed by The Search Continues and All The Way, which was released in 2016.

He is one of the leading lights in a sustained neo-gospel movement that first swept Jamaica 15 years ago with songs that appealed to non-Christians. Their impact built on the breakthrough of the traditional Grace Thrillers 25 years earlier with songs like Can't Even Walk and Jesus.

Some conventional gospel fans frown on acts like Downswell and Prodigal Son, saying their music and appearance bear similarities to dancehall.

Downswell understands those concerns, but said the important thing is to stay grounded and focus on the Word.

“There is a saying: 'losers have goals, winners have systems'. You must always have good people around you, and for me that's my wife,” he reasoned. “When you are a star, people tell you what you want to hear, but we've been happily married for 11 years and she's my rock.”

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