Catawba College Senior Dennis Reed of Charlotte wants to be real, for God that is. He wants to exploit his talents as a musician and composer and sort of be all he can be for God.
You might say that Reed’s new gospel album, "Water Walker," is a tribute to God. This music business major is grateful for his talents and has not buried them in the biblical sense, but rather grown them three-fold with "Water Walker" as the result.
"I looked around at artists and I saw a great disparity between the artist and what they seem to be and how they live," Reed explains. "I told God, 'I want to be real for you.' If you let me do this album, I want it to be a reflection of you. God’s not looking for more artists; he’s looking for more believers.
When people see Dennis Reed, I want them to know that I sin, I fall and get back up again, but I'm striving to be Christ-like. Too many times, Christians focus on what they can't do, but faith for me is about what you can do if you have enough trust and enough faith. There are no limits. The sky is the limit. You can have the life that's promised to you."
The album is Reed's creation and a masterpiece of collaboration, but it sounds more like rhythm and blues or pop soul rather than traditional gospel music. It's pure exaltation and uses twelve voices of his friends and relatives, God's Appointed People or G.A.P., along with four band members – piano, drums, bass and guitar, to praise the Lord.
Reed's mom, Jerri, sings on one track, "I Got My Joy Back," and sounds, Reed says, "like those old, country foot-stomping people." On another track, "Grateful," his good friend Patrick Love's voice is featured in solo — melodious, clear and righteous.
In one song, "No Way," a contemporary Christian influence can be heard, while the title track, "Water Walker" is very rock influenced, Reed explains. "I don't think it would have been this way if I hadn't been exposed to all different types of music at Catawba."
Reed listens thoughtfully to his own creations, remembering the collaborations that brought the album to fruition, remembering how far he has come with his music. "Here I am more skilled than my gift," he says. "In my deepest heart, I wanted to do a recording project and the funny thing about this project is that we faced so much opposition during the recording sessions. But God kept giving me new songs throughout the process when things went wrong.
"Catawba is my muse. I'd lock myself in practice room and I'd receive my own deliverance off one of my own songs. When I listen [to songs on the album], I'm encouraged. This project is a fulfillment of God's promise. This is Isaac for me and the dream come true for me."
A recent review of "Water Walker" in The Charlotte Post noted the CD "is very youth-oriented, but has something to offer every listener." Of Reed, The Post’s reviewer Winfred Cross wrote:
Reed has obviously been schooled by some gospel masters. I can hear traces of Richard Smallwood, D. Lawrence and even John P. Kee. Yet, Reed has an undeniable sound that shines through. He has the potential to be as good and successful as his contemporaries.
Reed, a graduate of Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte, spent many of his early years in various churches, thanks to his devout parents, Dennis and Jerri Reed, and their involvement in church music. He says he "got saved" when he was 12. And, while still in middle school, he served as a Minister of Music at several churches, including Womble's Chapel in Lilesville, Clark's Grove Baptist Church in Mt. Gilead, and Chappell Memorial Baptist Church in Charlotte. Today, he serves as Minister of Music at Living Waters Outreach Ministry in Charlotte.
Even though he was young when he started out as a Minister of Music, his burgeoning talent won him followers. "They respected me and it just began to flourish," he explains. "I got to learn as I went along. I taught them different songs, played the piano with the choir, and I would direct the choir on Sundays."
Reed's love for gospel music grew during his teen years as did his dream to become a recording artist. However, he did not initially plan to attend college. His parents tricked him into that, he recalls. One Saturday morning they told him they wanted him to take a drive with them. Reed was suspicious, but went along. They drove him to Salisbury, to the campus of Catawba College and it was the first college which he visited.
"I was introduced to Catawba and I liked what I saw. I was used to personal attention in high school, one on one with my teachers, and I was very concerned about going to a big public institution. I didn't just want to be a number," Reed recalls. "Catawba’s music department was small, but innovative. I learned that the music business major was new and music technology and recording all appealed to me as far as what I wanted to do as a music producer."
One of Reed's proudest achievements in his years at Catawba has been the founding of the group, "One Voice," which he calls "his heart." This 25-30 member group consists of theatre students, football players, basketball players, and others who "all came together because they like to sing." The group has performed numerous times on campus and at area churches.
He plans to graduate in May and graduate school is a distinct possibility, although over the summer, he'll tour with G.A.P. He hopes to interest a major record label in "Water Walker," which was produced at Charlotte's Pablo Productions and funded by family and friends. And, he'll keep writing music, accepting each song as a new gift.
"What keeps me happy is knowing that the world doesn’t revolve around me — that I’m a part of a bigger picture, a bigger plan," Reed concludes with a wide smile. "God still checks in on me and I just know that help is on the way and I can always look forward to better things and a new day."
An album release party was held for Reed and G.A.P. on Thursday, Nov. 10 at the Great Aunt Stella Center in Charlotte. CDs of "Water Walker" are available in the Catawba College Bookstore on campus, Dorothy's Music Network in Charlotte, and via these websites: www.cdbaby.com, www.goodpeoples.com, or www.DennisReed.com.
Hear Audio Excerpts from the album