We said we were bringing the music and we meant it!

This year’s “All Roads Lead to CHRCHx!” collaboration between The Dallas Weekly and Michael Clayton Productions was the best yet. Held at two venues – The Five Experience and Poor Rob’s – South Dallas was treated to some all-star talent. While the May 17 recorded show kept the audience somewhat sparse due to social distancing seating, although you wouldn’t know it to hear the cheering, no such worry hampered the Juneteenth show.

In addition, we caught up with Dallas recording artist Alex Smalls (be sure to catch his entertaining interview with our own Dianté Marigny) and were treated to some Audacity, as in the fascinating group of women rockers taking Dallas by storm.

Finally, our Arts writer Blair Krassen caught up with some of the Best of Black Dallas 2020 Music Winners to see what they’ve been up to over the past year. Enjoy!

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2021 CHRCHx Soul Music Festival Opening Night

Episode One

The concert series kicked off on May 17 at The Five Experience. First up was Dallas’ own Chadney Christle, who got the party started with her rendition of Mali Music’s hit, “Beautiful.”

Next up was the featured performer, Jabari Johnson, who took the crowd to church with his soulful, stirring execution of the Sam Cooke classic, “A Change is Gonna Come.” Not content to let his vocal instrument steal all the much-deserved attention, Johnson also delighted the audience with a 3-minute-long, virtuoso guitar riff.

Episode Two

Episode Two featured the soulful stylings of Demarci’a, who brought his own jokes to loosen up the crowd before belting out Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.”

Following him was headliner Mirek.e.l, sporting knee-length dreads as she strode to the stage in a lavender bodycon that showed she meant business as she had the crowd cheering her rendition of the Chaka Khan hit, “Sweet Thing.”

Episode Three

Episode Three belonged to the iconic Marium Echo, whose powerful yet melodic voice compelled the Houston Press to deem her Texas’ “Best Pure Singer.” And boy did she ever prove it with her jazzy anthem-like interpretation of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” that she merged into a rendition of the Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky” before ending on a jazzy riff that gave some love to her sax player.

Next, this magnificent vocalist closed her show with her rendition of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” which she expertly fused this time with Beyonce’s hit, “Crazy in Love,” but not before wowing the audience scatting to the Pink Panther theme.

Last, but certainly not least…

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DALLAS – June 19 this year marked 156 years since the last slaves in Texas were officially freed. President Joe Biden signed legislation Thursday, making Juneteenth a federal holiday from here on out.

The Dallas Weekly, a Dallas institution since 1954, in collaboration with Michael Clay Productions, concluded the wildly successful CHRCHx Soul Music Festival concert series with a Juneteenth Music Celebration Saturday night at Poor David’s Pub located just south of Downtown on Botham Jean Blvd.

As guests walked into the Pub, they admired the black painted gallery walls showcasing Black art and music all over the place. Waitresses worked the floor offering the food options for the night: crispy flavored wings or burger baskets, with a full bar and coffee station.

The crowd of over 150 people, included women with beautiful giant afros, a handful of fresh jumbo braids, and lots of dreadlocks, men and women.

The DJ played the hits…had the crowd rocking to songs from “The Cupid Shuffle” to Meg Thee Stallion to Big Moe’s “Just a Dog,” an early-2000s Texas classic.

On the stage, under the bright lights, Dallas Weekly’s COO Jessica Washington opened the show, wearing a flowy, peach-colored, floral two-piece skirt set paired with gold strappy heels. She welcomed the audience and let them know that they are celebrating the past, present, and future of Black Music.

Hosts for the night were Chadney Christle and actor JD Williams of Bounce Network’s “Saints and Sinners,” now in its fifth season. They were hilarious, to say the least. They told jokes, most of them seemingly improvised, and even performed a funny duet to “Baby If You Give It to Me” by Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey, followed by a little freestyle battle.

“It’s time to be Black, it’s time to be ghetto,” and “If you’re Black and you’re proud make some noise” are some of the expressions the audience loudly cheered and laughed to.

There were three musical performances of the night, first Marium Echo, then Carvena Jones, followed by the amazing Samoht, who closed out the evening.

Houston native Marium Echo took the stage wearing red hot lipstick and a custom made silk printed dress, or what our people call them, Dashikis or Kaftans.

The 6-member band began playing the tunes of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” as Echo blessed the audience with her soft and subtle yet powerful voice, everyone tapping their feet, nodding, and singing along. Another song she performed was Ice Cube’s “Today Was A Good Day,” where she rapidly rapped the words, drawing oohs from the crowd as they recorded her on their smartphones. 

The final song she sang was a fast version of Faith Evans’ “Soon As I Get Home.” She received a lasting, much-deserved standing ovation.

Before the next artist hit the stage, host Chadney Christle encouraged the three background singers to do a quick solo vocal performance, and that they did!

Next up was Carvena Jones, who competed on season 2 of the show “The Four,” where DJ Khaled described her voice as “powerful” and P. Diddy told her that her “voice is just incredible, you did everything perfect.”

She took the stage dressed in a black shorts-style bodysuit layered with a white ruffled cardigan and black leather platform boots, and we cannot forget the blinged out cross earrings.

In her soft and sweetly therapeutic voice, she began singing “I Just Called to Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder as the crowd frequently hollered “whoo” and “yass.” One fan even said “I’m ‘bout to cry.”

She continued her performance with “Lost Without You” by Robin Thicke, followed by Beyoncé’s “Love on Top” where she received a standing ovation then continued to sing with her guitar and no band, Beyoncé’s “Halo” that she dedicated to the crowd.

Carvena’s last song was the Rose Royce classic “I’m Going Down” (or an oldie by Mary J Blige to the younger generations) where she squatted low, got on her knees, and eventually sat down on the stage singing her heart out, totally into the music. Of course, another standing ovation.

Last but certainly not least, R&B sensation Samoht closed the night out. Samoht is a well-established artist who sang the Brandy tribute at the 2019 BMI Awards and was featured on John P Kee’s album I Made It Out.

He and his two-man band dressed in all white and had a few bouquets of white balloons on stage. With roses around his microphone, Samoht energetically performed his hit “Be OK,” and at times slowly grinded to the music, prompting the ladies to scream in awe.

Overall, the night was a true celebration of Black excellence and the crowd left feeling unapologetically Black.

Just what Juneteenth was made for.

Meet the CHRCHx Members

Samoht

Samoht is probably the most prolific performer in this year’s series, having released multiple EPs since his debut with “Omen” in 2018. This well-established tenor sang the Brandy tribute at the 2019 BMI Awards and was featured on John P Kee’s album I Made It Out. His most recent releases, “Clear” and “Alpha” both launched in November 2020.

Hailing from Wilson, NC, Samoht started singing in church, and maintains a strong connection to his faith, often reflected in his evolving R&B music, as he has been told it has a “gospel” sound to it. That’s a charge he readily owns, however, he attributes the 9 years he spent in NYC for perfecting the unique fusion of genres he is now known for.

Sounds about right for the man who once explained the message in his music to Rated RnB as follows: “Keep on keeping on. Life is going to keep on happening, but you have to hold yourself to a certain standard and don’t go down. You might have a moment where you feel down, but that doesn’t mean you are actually down. It’s just a feeling. Keep good people around you as well as keep being a good person to be around. Cause it ain’t all about you.”

Carvena Jones

Hailing from a family of singers in Jackson, Mississippi, singer and guitarist Carvena Jones found fame on Season 2 of The Four: Battle for Stardom.

On the show, DJ Khaled described her voice as “powerful” and P. Diddy told her that her “voice is just incredible, you did everything perfect.”

Carvena Jones passionately performed at Poor David’s Pub in Dallas for a Juneteenth Music Celebration where she let fans know she is working on a new album and claims it will be her best work yet.

Demarci’a

Dallas’ own Demarci’a was brought up in a church where R&B music was frowned upon. That didn’t stop him from listening to the likes of Al Green, Lenny Williams, and Barry White in his youth. As an adult, he has even toured with Babyface.

Demarci’a has strong feeling about being an “influencer of positivity” for youth. He believes it’s not enough to just be an artist and put your music out there; to be a great artist, he says, it’s about leadership and doing good for your community.

Demarci’a has plans to one day become an executive producer and oversee other artists, but for now he’s working on an album that he is overjoyed about releasing sometime this year.

Jabari Johnson

Houston native Jabari Johnson started singing and playing music when he was just three years old. At the age of eight, he formed a vocal quartet called The Johnson brothers, where he and his brother Nicholas Johnson worked with Lee Williams and The Canton Spirituals.

Later, Jabari was named lead guitarist at The Potter’s House in Dallas where he performed with the church founder T.D Jakes himself and award winning gospel singers Kirk Franklin, Tori Kelly, and Ricky Dillard.

Mirek.e.l

Dallas’ own Mirek.e.l grew up singing in the church. However, it wasn’t until her brother encouraged her to record a song that she knew she wanted to make a career out of singing.

Mirek.e.l is now in the process of recording her first EP, which is set to release later this year. “I have a few singles already but this will be my first body of work,” she said. “I’m really excited about people [being able to] hear my heart.”

Mirek.e.l describes herself as a musical storyteller and she is most looking forward to letting people get to know her and, hopefully, change some lives through her music.

Chadney Christle

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chadney started singing in church at 5 years old. When she was 7, she learned to play the piano. 3 years later, at the age of 10, her professional career began. She sings traditional gospel, contemporary, and jazz music.

Chadney studied vocal performance, jazz composition, and sound engineering at Cedar Valley College. She has experience that includes working and ministering with Myron Butler & Levi, Fred Hammond, Kirk Franklin, Angel, George Huff, Candy West, and Kim Burrell.

She hosted the Juneteenth Music Celebration this year with JD Williams at Poor David’s Pub where the pair encouraged the crowd to be unapologetically Black. Fans aren’t used to seeing her comedic side, but she had the crowd cracking up laughing.

Marium Echo

This established vocalist grew up in an artistic household where music was prominent and important as both of her parents were singer/songwriters. She started singing in first grade with the choir and did ensemble work all the way through college.

But Echo said she didn’t get the urge to sing solo in front of people until she stumbled across the Jazz Department at Texas Southern University. There she honed her amazing voice by drawing on inspiration from legends like Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson, and Ella Fitzgerald.

She had to stop singing the blues, however, because at one point, she was battling depression and while performing, she’d shut her eyes, sing her blues, and when she’d open her eyes, the whole crowd would be crying. She didn’t want that energy to be transferred to the audience and transitioned to only singing about love and positivity.

Now, you can find the great Marium Echo every week at the following BLACK OWNED Restaurants/Venues in Houston: The Turkey Leg Hut on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, O2 lounge on Thursdays, and Taste Bar and Kitchen on Saturdays and Sundays.

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