The Bemiss Brothers
The Moment I Believed
SONO 6011
 
The Songs:
 
1. The Moment I Believed
2. I am Happy with Jesus Alone
3. The Last Mile Of the Way
4. Where Could I Go
5. His Eye Is On The Sparrow
6. The Lord Will Make a Way
7. He Knows How Much You Can Bear
8. Blessed Assurance
9. Everybody Will Be Happy Over There
10. In The Strong Name Of Jesus
11. I Bowed On My Knees and Cried Holy
12. We'll Understand It Better, By and By
13. When We All Get To Heaven
14. My Heavenly Father Watches Over Me
 
The Singers & Players:
 
Lead Vocals: Burnell Bemiss
Piano, Organ, Synths: Al Bemiss
Bass and Guitar: Warren Nabonne
Drums: Cleveland Vinning
Sax Solo: Michael Pierce
Background vocals Val and Burnell Bemiss
 
The Bemiss Brothers, Al and Burnell, emerge here in "The Moment I Believed" as a fusion of cultural legacy and spiritual upbringing married to a unique, New Orleans approach to Gospel music.  Their music origins echo the heritage, mystery, and specialness of many "Big Easy" music makers.
 
Al and Burnell's father was the Reverend Walter Bemiss, whose ministry was located at Fifth African Baptist Church, on South Robertson Street.  Fifth African Baptist  provided the incubation for a love for music, performance, and spiritual training.  Al began playing organ solos at his father's church with his instructor, William Houston, Jr..  Burnell started out playing piano, but preferred singing.  He remembers his singing debut at seven years old with the song, "In The Garden," in his father's church.  When young Burnell sang, there was not a dry eye in the congregation.
 
Both Al and Burnell have had careers in sacred and secular music.   Al played with a string of bands in the late 60s and 70s which developed his early pop style, most notably with Johnny Taylor and Candi Staton. Al has worked as pianist for Clarence "Frogman" Henry nearly 20 years.  In addition, Al was the music director and pianist with the touring cast of "One Mo' Time."  During that time, he  also performed sacred music,  his sustenance,  both culturally and spiritually.  Al has played music at many churches in New Orleans, and currently plays at Beecher Memorial United Church of Christ.  Also, Al teaches music eagerly, passing on his tremendous gifts.
 
Burnell has been performing in New Orleans all of his life, from his very early days of singing solos in his father's church, to pop and gospel with local groups such as "Rhema," and the early New Orleans Sound Company,  a nine-piece R&B band, popular throughout the city.  A favored soloist, Burnell, too, has performed at many churches, singing praises across congregations.  He is currently a member of the "The Word Of Faith Singers," and eight-piece vocal ensemble at the Word Of Faith Church in New Orleans.
 
Gospel music is really where the melody stands firm in the hearts of the Bemiss Brothers.  For Al and Burnell, their's is a ministry of music.  They grew up in the Baptist church with these selections, considered as traditional in New Orleans.  These are older hymns, such as "Everybody Will Be Happy Over There."  This song celebrates that final homecoming, getting to heaven, a happy time, when you will see the loved ones before you.  Burnell says the the title song, "The Moment I Believed, tells of the first time you accept Christ as your personal Savior.  From that point on, you receive strength and guidance through Him".  "The Moment I Believed," like this entire collection, describes that moment of awareness  when you change direction toward God.  Many songs speak of getting to heaven, or sum up what a Christian looks forward to at the end of this life, that exultant time in the hereafter.  The Bemiss Brothers goal here is to aid in providing spiritual guidance with a funkified approach to church and gospel music in the New Orleans style.
 
Al and Burnell created the modern arrangements for these standard baptist hymns in "The Moment I Believed"  with a decidedly New Orleans  R&B flavor.  The traditional is mixed with a rhythmic  undercurrent, that "second line" feeling found naturally in gospel music, with brass band and street-parade grooves added.
 
From the place where the handkerchiefs fly and umbrellas dance, comes the Bemiss Brothers bringing you a delightful collaboration of the traditional baptist hymn and funkified rhythms.  Just when you thought that you knew what contemporary gospel music sounded like, the Bemiss Brothers bring a new dimension to this genre.  The Bemiss Brothers are proudly presented here in "The Moment I Believed," courtesy of the New Orleans cultural heritage and spiritual seasoning of the talented brothers, with a whole lot of faith in their music and their message.
 
(Mona Lisa Saloy)