We know that artists have stylists and personal trainers that help them achieve a certain look, but people don't always think about the person who helps them achieve their sound. Vocal coaches are a critical asset, and they're not just for hopeful talents looking to win competitions like NBC's The Voice. Established stars like Jennifer Lopez, Lenny Kravitz and Kelly Rowland all sing the praises of one person in particular, Stevie Mackey.
Now, the popular singer/vocal coach/pianist/arranger – also known for his epic "Taco Tuesday" open mic/singing sessions with SB faves like JoJo, Durand Bernarr and RILEY – is gifting us with something that we all need. No, it's not free singing lessons. But it is a master class in vocal wizardry with his debut album, The Most Wonderful Time.
While some might find it odd that he would choose a seasonal niche for his premiere, the timing and content were quite purposeful, especially as we contend with our new normal in the midst of a pandemic. “This album is a combination of my favorite time of the year, my favorite people, and my favorite activity – singing, he explains. "Making this album gave me an outlet during months of quarantine and unrest… it took me away from reality and back to my childhood memories.”
Featuring stellar production by THE ELEVEN, Stevie offers an impeccable collection of 15 songs, including holiday staples and an original tune. With so many talented friends, it's no surprise that the album features some noteworthy collaborations. Boyz II Men's Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman help open the album with the heartwarming Home Alone theme "Somewhere In My Memory." Last year, Stevie joined J.Lo on her award-winning It's My Party Tour. She returns the favor by bringing the fete to the studio for "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year." Meanwhile, 13-year-old prodigy Justin-Lee Schultz does an impressive job on an update of Donny Hathaway's classic "This Christmas."
Gospel and jazz icons Take 6 use their pristine harmonies to help celebrate the birth of the King on "Jesus What A Wonderful Child." In contrast, JoJo is the perfect duet partner as she helps Stevie wax romantic on the festive slow jam "Hung Up On You." Cory Henry makes the organ sing on an electrifying, gospel-rock version of "Do You Hear What I Hear." Less lively, but equally stunning is a stirring rendition of "Mary Did You Know" featuring his good friend Sheléa.
A lesser singer would've been overwhelmed and overshadowed on a project filled with such incredible guest artists. But Stevie Mackey is more than capable of holding his own, and shows the full breadth of his vocal range and nuance on the album's solo tracks. The swinging jazz arrangement of "Let It Snow;" a silky smooth update of Wham!'s "Last Christmas;" his breathtaking and reverential tones on "Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel;" the sunny nostalgia of "California Dreamin'," (The Mamas and The Papas cover is an unexpected treat for a holiday project); and an understated, acoustic performance of Joni Mitchell's "River" are all quite impressive. Perhaps most evident of his talent and technique is the hymn "Oh Holy Night." Mr. Mackey is anointed. Period. His voice lifts us heavenward, his tone and control are awe-inducing, and that key change gave us goosebumps and chills.
If you didn't know about Stevie Mackey before, it's The Most Wonderful Time for you to find out. Download a copy of the album to perk up your holiday playlist this season and beyond. And for those looking to enhance and improve their vocal skills, visit his website for info on upcoming classes.