America’s black churches still produce great mainstream singers, but after gospel acts scored pop hits in the mid 1980s without going secular like Aretha, church-trained singers became slower to abandon religious lyrics to get mainstream attention. Singer/keyboardist Ann Nesby initially rose to crossover glory as part of the “inspirational choir” Sounds of Blackness, whose pioneering blend of mass choir harmonics and Minneapolis funk caught the entrepreneurial ears of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. But a subsequent string of trendsetting ensemble and solo singles weren’t enough to lure Nesby away from musical ministry, and with her new solo CD, In The Spirit, she returns to old fashioned gospel hymnody. The organ and tambourine riffs throughout wouldn’t sound out of place at a vintage tent revival, and Nesby’s powerful pipes rival Aretha’s on ‘Climbing Higher Mountains’. Nesby’s sophisticated phrasing consistently works miracles, wresting deeper ecumenical meanings from from both classic psalms and songs like Stevie Wonder’s ‘Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away’.