The best-selling and most-awarded female gospel artist of all time, CeCe Winans has long since cemented her status as one of the most accomplished and celebrated women in modern music history. It'd be easy to look back and rest on such illustrious laurels, but Winans has always had her eyes fixed firmly on the future, so it should come as little surprise that she jumped at the opportunity when her son, Alvin Love III, proposed she record the generation-bridging new album 'Let Them Fall In Love.' Her first in nearly a decade, the record finds Winans returning to the studio with gusto, working for roughly three years to craft her most confident, adventurous collection yet.
Recording and performing as both a solo artist and as a duo with her brother BeBe, CeCe has influenced a generation of gospel and secular vocalists over the course of her astonishing career. Her mantel today holds a staggering 12 GRAMMY Awards, 22 Dove Awards, and 7 Stellar Awards. She's been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the Nashville Music City Walk of Fame, in addition to being named a Trailblazer of Soul by BMI and garnering multiple NAACP Image Awards, Soul Train Awards, Essence Awards, and more. She's sold in excess of 5 million albums in the US, topping the Gospel charts repeatedly while crossing over with smashes like "Count On Me," her stunning duet with Whitney Houston from the multi-platinum 'Waiting To Exhale' soundtrack, which sold 2 million copies and cracked the Top 10 on the Pop, R&B, and Adult Contemporary charts. She touched millions more with inspirational performances everywhere from Oprah to The White House, and even showed off her acting chops on television series like '7th Heaven' and 'Doc.’
While collaborating with family is nothing new for Winans, the recording sessions for 'Let Them Fall In Love" found the Detroit native working for the very first time with her son in the producer's chair.
"Alvin shared with me a vision that he had of a record that was bold and a little different than anything I'd ever done before," remembers Winans. "When I heard the songs he'd been writing, I got so excited. He has great ears and great style and a unique way of writing and thinking things through. It made it extra special that two generations of family were able to come together on this record."
Bringing together generations is Winans' specialty, and she drew inspiration for the album from her extensive work with the young men and women who attend the church she and her husband founded in Nashville.
"It's really important to me to share where I've been and to encourage young people to understand that they can go even further," reflects Winans. "I wanted to make an album that ties us together, something that young people would be able to learn from and be inspired by."
Written primarily by Alvin and co-produced by Alvin along with Winans' long-time collaborator Tommy Sims (Garth Brooks, Michael McDonald, Bonnie Raitt), 'Let Them Fall In Love' was mixed by Dae Bennett (Tony Bennett, Amy Whinehouse, Olivia Newton John) and Jimmy Douglass (Pharrell Williams, Micheal Buble). The album, recorded both in Nashville and New York City, finds Winans more confident than ever before, merging eras and genres in a glorious blend of past and present that simultaneously recalls the heyday of Motown and still sounds undeniably modern. Big band horns meet strings from the Nashville String Machine as Winans' soaring voice hits new heights, fueled in part by the encouragement and motivation of her son.
"Alvin was hard on me in the studio," remembers Winans. "He'd really work me during the songs, and I knew that was a good thing because it meant he was pressing me to get the best performances possible. Now I listen back and I know he was right. It was so important to get the right interpretation of each song."
Winans is able to inhabit each song on the record so fully in part because she's lived their stories. She describes album opener "He's Never Failed Me Yet" as "my personal testimony," "Run To Him" as her frequent act of refuge, and "Marvelous" as a musical embodiment of the black church. On "Hey Devil!," she's joined by fellow gospel powerhouses The Clark Sisters for a playful rebuke of temptation, while "Peace From God" is a prayer for light in an increasingly dark world, and "Lowly" is a lesson about pride and humility aimed at the young men who might need it most. Winans’ eclectic ability shines through on the pedal steel country waltz of "Why Me," a song she discovered when she was invited to perform it live with its writer, Kris Kristofferson.
"I ended up getting sick and I couldn't perform it with him at the show, but my son heard it and knew it would be perfect for the album," explains Winans. "It's so different for me in this whole new field of country music, but it spoke to my heart and I felt like it was written just for me."
On the album's other cover, "Dancing in The Spirit," Winans is joined by Hezekiah Walker and his choir for a jubilant celebration, while "Never Have To Be Alone" finds her taking a far more somber approach, singing to the young members of her congregation. It's the album's closer and title track, though, that seems to light Winans up more than any other.
"That was the first song for this album and I knew right away that I wanted the record to be named 'Let Them Fall In Love,'" she explains. "I told my son that it had to be the heartbeat of the album. There's a lot of different styles and a lot of strong messages on there, but all of them are to bring us to this point. It's why I came back and recorded another album, to express my heart and my desire that people young and old can listen and fall in love with the higher power, fall in love with love, and fall in love with faith and joy and peace.”