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Lynda Randle connects with roots, history in ‘Pilgrim Journey’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) – Even before Lynda Randle became a fixture on Gaither Homecoming videos, she loved a good Negro spiritual sung with a “reverence” born of proximity and experience.

“I want folks to know I know a little bit about the struggle and I wanted to just give it its just due,” Randle told Baptist Press. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Her recognition and reverence of the African American experience and struggle for civil rights unfold in her latest album, “Pilgrim Journey,” releasing today (Feb. 11) from Gaither Music Group.

Randle cries out to the Lord in spirituals of prayer, lament and healing, with the petition, “Oh Lord, Can You Hear Me Praying?” interspersed in 50-second soulful cuts throughout the album. Randle anchors the fervent prayer between spirituals including “My Feet May Be Tired,” “Plenty Good Room,” and Randle fan favorite “Motherless Child Medley,” ending with a medley of freedom songs.

Grammy-nominated and Dove Award-winning singer and songwriter Cindy Morgan co-produced “Pilgrim Journey,” which includes diverse vocals from Grammy winners Kimberly Schlapman of Little Big Town on a new rendition of “Give Me Jesus,” and Tommy Sims on a production of “I Want Jesus to Walk With Me.”

Randle sings with a certain freedom and abandon that she believes will help others express their feelings. Current struggles unearthed during the COVID-19 pandemic and national civil unrest brought Randle to “Pilgrim Journey,” she said.

“This was healing for me personally. I was just inspired out of all the hate. Everybody’s so religious, so to speak, but they can’t get along with their neighbor,” she said. “And the Lord says how can you say you love Me, you haven’t even seen me, and your brother you see every day, that maybe doesn’t look anything like you, you hate. So you can’t possibly love me.”

Randle especially appreciated working on the project with Morgan, whom she describes as a longtime friend.

“We had some of the most incredible conversations,” Randle said. “I would say this. If I had the opportunity to talk to every white person in America – and not feeling like they’re going to want to fight, or you’re going to fight, or whatever, based on things you’ve said – I would say I would love for everybody to have Cindy Morgan’s temperament, because she was an open book. She was open-minded. Her heart was open. She was receptive to hear.”

It wasn’t a matter of Morgan agreeing with everything said, or even fully understanding, Randle said, but Morgan listened, lamented and offered help in making a difference.

“She just said all the right things. It was pretty amazing. So if that conversation could be dittoed a million times a million times, literally from both groups of people (Blacks and whites) in particular,” Randle said, “I think this world would be much better.”

Surrounding the release is Randle’s Feb. 15 debut at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and the TBN special “Lynda Randle and Friends: A Pilgrim’s Journey,” airing Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. Eastern.

“For me, this is just a way of me trying to bring people to the table through this music and through our history,” Randle said. “Even though there are people who want to erase this history, this is part of my history, and so, that’s kind of what inspired me through the whole pandemic and all the craziness that I saw, and the riots and the fighting. It was just time.”

Acknowledging the past is as important to the present and future, Randle said, as is family medical history to a person’s current healthcare. Any doctor treating a patient needs to know of the patient’s family history of cancer, heart disease or diabetes, Randle said.

“For anybody who doesn’t want to know about our past, it would be like me going to a doctor and I have some issues in my body and he says, ‘OK, so let me see what’s in your family history. Oh, there’s diabetes, there’s cancer, there’s heart disease,’” Randle surmised. “And I go, look, I want to cancel that. I don’t even want to know all that.

“So I think for our country, there’s a lot of stuff that people just want to forget about that they don’t want to talk about. ‘That was in the past, it doesn’t matter.’ Well it does matter, because we have to move forward, and we can’t move forward like we’ve moved in the past.”

Randle finds the release of “Pilgrim Journey” appropriate during Black History Month, and promises fans her traditional repertoire as she embarks on a new journey.

“I love hymns and my song, ‘God on the Mountain,’ that … was the biggest song with Gaither I’ve ever done,” she said, “but something happened to me during the pandemic that I just realized, you know what, I haven’t lived my full potential as an artist, and as a Black artist even.”

Working with Morgan helped Randle reach a new point in her life’s journey.

“God just used this sweet sister (Morgan) to help me come out of my shell,” Randle said. “It’s a place I’ve never been to before. I can’t go back.”