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Ask anyone who knows Darrel Petties, and they’ll tell you that beneath the exterior of one of the young, most gifted...
Ask anyone who knows Darrel Petties, and they’ll tell you that beneath the exterior of one of the young, most gifted innovators in contemporary, choral Gospel music beats the heart of a very wise old soul. Directing his church choir since the age of eight, and sharing preaching responsibilities with his grandfather/pastor from the time he was 13, Darrel has always known and lived a life of maturity far beyond his years. With his debut solo release, Count It All Joy, he moves front-and-center in the elite group of young, modern Gospel artists and choir-leaders who are innovatively and excitingly breathing new life into that venerable musical genre. Darrel and his choir, Sing in Praise, masterfully manage the merging of up-to-the minute R&B, urban influences and true-to-tradition, classic Gospel. “Mighty God,” is a full-tilt shout of praise that kicks off in overdrive and only builds from there. “Yes Lord,” which garnered considerable radio play and recognition initially as part of the 2005, EMI Gospel anthology, Look Up Sing Out, is a high-energy homage to old-school Gospel that still packs a powerful, modern punch. “Glory Hallelujah,” first made its way to the airwaves as part of the 300,000-plus-selling WOW Gospel 2005 anthology—an unprecedented accomplishment, in that Darrel was the first artist without a major-label project in release to be included on the yearly, highly vaunted, two-disk compilation of the best of Gospel for the preceding year. The classic song of the church, re-thought and rewritten by Darrel, who wrote all but one of the ten songs of Count It All Joy, leaves the gate as a hand-clapping, foot-stomping slice of Sunday morning jubilation before stopping in its tracks, and metamorphosing on a dime into a red-hot Gospel/R&B romp. Counting Gospel luminaries Bishop Paul J. Morton, Hezekiah Walker, and Kirk Franklin as major musical influences, it’s no surprise that Darrel—like his heroes—is a natural-born innovator himself. Discovered by Gospel superstar, Smokie Norful, at an Announcer’s Guild conference in Arkansas which they both attended, and at which Darrel and Strength In Praise performed, he was quickly signed by Norful to his Triune production company. With his career shepherded by Norful since that time, Darrel soon had a solo project in the works with Norful’s own label, EMI Gospel. With Kirk Franklin collabs not hard to see in Darrel a major new talent about to be discovered by the world beyond his Memphis, Tennessee home. Darrel overcame the hardships and tragedy of a broken home, with a frequently absent, drug-addicted father, and a mother who had her hands more than full trying to care for him and his five siblings, through both the obvious grace of God, and a large extended family that saw that his basic needs were always met. Leadership of a week-long youth crusade in Memphis, when Darrel was 14, yielded miraculous results, including the formation of a 100-voice choir which would become the first incarnation of Strength in Praise. Currently a student in business administration in a two-year program at Southwestern College in Memphis, as well as pursuing studies at Jacksonville Theological Seminary, Darrel sees music as but one key component of the calling he has felt for his entire life. “My whole ministry is about how God always and eternally gives second chances,” Darrel says, “but that can’t just be words you give to people. I think that by me doing all of these things—going to college, to seminary, and carrying this music ministry to ever greater heights—are all going to tie together to really complete the total destiny that God has on my life. “I want to go places—street corners, the projects, foreign countries—everywhere—and show through this ministry that God offers this same life-changing experience to everyone. I pray that God is giving me that platform now,” Darrel concludes, “to get up close and personal with people to minister to them. There are so many things I want to do, but nothing is more important than saving that one soul for Christ, one life at a time.”
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