Spanish Group Hits High Note

by Jenni Parker

 The Katinas

(AgapePress) A new album due to be released this fall promises to bridge generations and genres with its unique blend of sounds, styles, moods, and message. The Katinas soon-to-be-released Roots brings this brother act to a new stage in their inspirational musical witness.

With two ASCAP Awards, eight Dove Award nominations -- including a 1999 Dove Award win for their contribution to the multi-artist compilation Exodus -- and four number-one radio hits, the Katinas are no strangers to Christian audiences. They've shared the stage with CeCe Winans, Amy Grant, Andre Crouch, and Michael W. Smith, to name a few favorites. And the Katinas have loaned their testimony and talent to praise, worship and evangelism events, including Praise Gathering and the crusades of Luis Palau and Billy Graham.

But for those who have yet to hear the five brothers from American Samoa who comprise this unique Christian Contemporary group, their latest studio effort, Roots, offers an excellent opportunity to be introduced to their style, harmony and inspirational lyrics. The music spans a range of influences from classic Motown, island-flavored pop, and urban hip hop to neo-soul and soft, acoustical rock.

Roots will be the Katinas' fourth album since their 1999 debut on the Gotee Records label, not counting two Spanish language versions of their first two releases, Los Katinas and Destino. Like earlier recordings, Roots offers the richness of the group's tight vocal blend and excellent musicianship, as well as highly personal songs reflecting their faith in God, personal experiences, and family bond. But Roots is a watermark for the band, a new high point in their growth as artists who have been singing and performing together virtually since birth.

The album bears the very personal imprint of the Katinas as individuals and as a group. Sam, Joe, Jesse, John and James Katina sang, played instruments, wrote songs, and co-produced the album with the help of a few gifted guest musicians and vocalists and several of the experienced producers behind popular acts such as Mercy Me, tobyMac, and Stacie Orrico. The eleven songs on Roots demonstrate gifted songwriting, sophisticated production, and a message with an earnest, evangelical emphasis.

The first track, the upbeat "Are You Ready?" issues a direct challenge to Christians to stop hesitating, get up and prepare for spiritual revolution. The equally rousing "Freedom," featuring guest John Reuben, is a similar rallying cry, while "Movin'" is nothing short of an altar call with a beat that invites listeners to dance all the way there. The gentler "Someday" and "Still in Love" -- the latter featuring the unmistakable voice of guest artist Amy Grant -- share tender spiritual devotion as well as lessons of faith learned from a lost loved one. And songs like "Faithfully," "Joy," and "Changed" beautifully express the hope and solace of Christian life.

The overall effect of Roots is a pleasing balance of messages, moods, and musical styles that will appeal to a diverse audience. One wonders whether the album's title may include a nod to the classic pop, rhythm and blues musical influences of earlier eras, as well as to the spiritual heritage passed on to the Katinas by their pastor father and the deceased mother they so often address in their songs. In any case, Roots is a worthy offering that will bless and inspire its audience.

The group recently completed a series of concerts in New Zealand and Australia, and is currently slated to appear at certain Creation West and Promise Keepers events in the U.S. this summer. Late this year the Katinas will be sharing their new music with audiences across America as they make appearances with guest artist Joy Williams, and also as they join Michael W. Smith and special guests Point of Grace for the 2003 "Christmastime Tour."

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