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RiZen burst onto the national gospel music scene in 2003 rocking their stilettos to a praise beat, wowing audiences and satisfying thirsty souls without ever missing a step. Comprised of real life sisters Adriann and Aundrea Lewis, the Stellar...
RiZen burst onto the national gospel music scene in 2003 rocking their stilettos to a praise beat, wowing audiences and satisfying thirsty souls without ever missing a step. Comprised of real life sisters Adriann and Aundrea Lewis, the Stellar Award winning group was originally formed in 1995 by Adriann as an eight member praise and worship team at New Galilee Baptist Church in Saginaw, Michigan - their home church where their father, Luciose Lewis, serves as pastor. Fast forward to 2009: The all girl praise and worship team has evolved from eight members to three and, now, to a duo newly signed to Verity Records and set to release their third CD FREE.
Renowned the world over for their powerful vocals, awesome harmonies and trademark old school meets new school gospel sound, Adriann and Aundrea grew up as preacher’s kids but were allowed to listen to all kinds of music, and this early exposure to varying musical sounds and styles continues to influence their sound today. “Our mother was a musician, so she listened to all genres of music,” says Adriann. “To this day, I still love R&B artists. Some of my favorites are Tina Turner and Mary J Blige. However, we grew up Baptist, so that’s all we knew when it came to our own singing and recording – and that’s where we get our signature sound.”
Aundrea recalls: “We grew up with the Gospel Music Workshop of America. Through our mom, who is a piano teacher and choir director, we were introduced to the music of seasoned traditional gospel artists like Rev. Charles Nicks, Dr. James Cleveland, Albertina Walker, and Dorothy Norwood. However, we do love R&B, Jazz and Country music. Growing up, our parents allowed us to go to concerts, like New Edition and LL Cool J, and we were able to buy albums. We still have our Michael Jackson albums to this day! So even though our musical foundation is the Baptist church, we have a range of influences that occasionally pop up in our music.”
Like most singers raised in the church, Aundrea and Adriann honed their craft singing in the children’s choir. Their mother, Kayron Lewis, directed all of the church choirs. Aundrea garnered her choir directing skills by following their mother. She says, “We started really early singing in every choir in the church. I was the director. Wherever my mom went and directed, I followed her. I have directed the youth choir, the mass choir and even the male chorus.”
While Aundrea was learning to direct choirs, Adriann was singing with all of them - even the male chorus. Aundrea laughs, “My sister Adriann starting singing at age three and she sang with every choir in the church, including the male chorus. Picture this little girl up there singing with all those men, that was a sight!” Adriann adds, “I did not want to stop, I demanded to sing…I’ve been singing since I was three years old!”
The sisters continued to sing in the church and build up a reputation as vocal powerhouses. They were awe-inspiring singers by the time Adriann formed the original eight member ensemble RiZen. However, by the time they were set to record, the eight had become four dedicated souls ready to set the world on fire with their distinctive sound.
Their self-titled debut CD was released with much fanfare and praise and won a Stellar Award in 2004 for Best New Artist. All of a sudden the trio of Midwestern church girls had a chart climbing hit on their hands and was on a whirlwind of success. RiZen had a schedule packed with international personal and promotional appearances, TV performances, and concert tours and media interviews. Aundrea remembers all the excitement, “It was just moving so fast. We had been together for twelve years and in that thirteenth year to see God open up all of those doors doing all that he said he would do was just awesome!”
By the time RiZen released their second CD, RiZen2, in 2005 they were touted as bonafide gospel sensations. To add even more icing on the cake, they won a Stellar Award in 2006 for Best Traditional Group/Duo. However, in between that second CD and their latest, FREE, the trio became a duo of two tight-knit sisters Adriann and Aundrea Lewis.
With FREE, RiZen has again recorded a CD that covers a myriad of gospel sounds, from traditional to contemporary, to praise and worship, with a touch of R&B and a splash of funk. This mixture of sounds beyond traditional gospel is a sweet surprise for RiZen fans and will garner even more inspirational and gospel music fans of all ages to their music ministry. The duo will also continue the work of their ministry “RiZen From Prison” where they give a free concert every November at a women’s prison in Arizona and, when each person is released from prison she is presented with a pair of stilettos as a reminder of her walk with Christ.
The new CD, FREE, was produced by urban gospel icon and label mate Fred Hammond, as well as Aaron Lindsey, Daniel Weatherspoon and RiZen’s younger brother and musical director, Ay’Ron Lewis. Aundrea beams over their new release, “Our sound has really changed with this release. It is a mixture of traditional and contemporary styles. We were able to work with different producers who brought to us more creative ideas and a different way of doing things this time. ”
When asked what songs on FREE are extra special to them, Adriann says: “I love all the songs, but the song “Live To Love,” written by Fred Hammond tells everything that I’ve personally gone through over the past two years. I believe the Lord just had him write my life in that song!
And musically, there’s the 1970s throw back, “All I Need,” which is an ode to Aretha Franklin and the Detroit Motown sound. It’s upbeat, a little bit churchy and a little bit funky. Since we’re from Michigan, we had to throw that one in. Anybody who loves Aretha is going to be all into this one.”
Aundrea’s favorites lean more towards the traditional gospel tracks. “‘Worked It Out’ really hits home with me. It’s up tempo and it addresses questions like ‘What am I supposed to be doing with my life?’ ‘God where are you trying to take me?’ and ‘How am I going to pay these bills!’ It tells us to stop trying to figure it out and give it over to God and let him work it out.
Then there’s the beautiful ballad “Just For Me.” I wrote that song during a church service at home. The sprit was so high and I just started singing that little hook. My oldest brother was in the audience. He wasn’t saved at that time.
And as I sang that song, he received the Holy Ghost and accepted Christ as his personal savior. And every time I hear that song it reminds me that the Lord saved my brother, just for me.”
Other stand outs on FREE include the rock tinged title track, which will make you dance and shout in the spirit as you relish being free from the cares of this world. The praise and worship ballad, “I Owe It All To You” will send your soul soaring with gratitude to the Lord for all he’s done for you while the up beat, foot stomping, traditional gospel music lover’s delight, “Look Back” will take you straight to church. And not be left out is “Ridiculous Praise,” it will touch your spirit and make you praise God right where you are.
Besides Aundrea and Adriann, a crew of gifted writers contributed to the project, such as Ay’Ron Lewis, Fred Hammond, Aaron W. Lindsey, James Fortune, Daniel Weatherspoon, Alvin Richardson, Deon Kipping, and Michael and Chuck Bethany.
One listen to FREE and you’ll feel the anointing jumping out at you. FREE is RiZen’s best musical offering to date and an awesome ministry tool for the duo’s ultimate goals of saving souls and global kingdom building.
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1. He'll Make A Way
4. Live To Love
5. Just for Me (He Did It)
6. I Owe It All To You
8. Look Back
9. All I Need
10. Worked It Out
11. Free (A LIN-Z Remix)
© 2013 HEAR IT FIRST