Brian Blade, Mama Rosa (Verve Forecast)

Shreveport drummer Brian Blade sets out to blend smooth Christian soft-rock with melodic blues vibes that attempts to carry listeners on a journey within their spirits for them to see the light and know the Lord, but sadly his message falls short.

Mama Rosa starts out with Blade’s soft ethereal voice telling me to “sleep my darlin’ through the night / I’m gonna watch until the morning light” and I wanted to believe him.

But the first song is the best song, and the album doesn’t progress from there. Blade never explores where else his piano and guitar can take him as they make the same rise and fall for eight counts in songs, and then they repeat.

The two bright spots of the album appear in the form of background vocalist, Kelly Jones and Blade’s descriptive lyrics. Jones provides a nice harmony vocal that truly sounds like an angel on “Mercy Angel.” Her soft breathy voice makes you want to close your eyes and follow her to wherever or whatever higher place she is trying to elevate you to. Whenever Jones’ voice graces the song, it’s a pleasure.

The other high point comes in his attention to visual details. In “Second Home,” he swiftly evokes day-to-day life, singing, “Plastic beads hang from trees / must have been a parade yesterday or maybe last year/ I don’t know.” The immediacy of the commonplace image is simple and arresting, and suggests a level of engagement with the city that goes beyond tourist bureau thrills.

It’s nice to see Blade step out from behind the drum kit and reveal himself as a songwriter, but it’s sad that Mama Rosa doesn’t reach its full potential because you can tell that the songs are genuine and speak from a sincere place in his heart.