I'm a white guy raised on the fringes of West Texas. So why is it that I've always felt so connected to black gospel music? And why, on some days, do I even wish I could be not just a gospel artist, but a black one at that? Must be something in my blood.

Music born from and inspired by America's storied African culture and history has had an unexplainable hold on me since I was a kid, compelling how I write, perform, and record my own music today. Where I grew up, not many folks in the region were into black gospel, much less black people. But that's another issue altogether. Thankfully, my parents loved folks from all sorts of backgrounds, and their musical tastes reflected it. Born and bred in Louisiana, my parents are fine musicians who shared their diverse musical genetics with my brothers and me by filling our youth with folk, classical, country, southern jazz, Zydeco, and even gospel music.

For my 13th birthday I asked my parents for tickets to a CeCe Winans concert in Dallas. Her R&B-pop-soul gospel career with her brother BeBe made an indelible mark on my musical childhood, eventually directing my ear's attention to soul greats like Roberta Flack, Ben Harper, the Reverend Al Green, and Mavis Staples (whose 2010 Jeff Tweedy-produced gospel effort is a must listen). And boy was CeCe in fine form that Saturday night. The woman can flat out saaang. Even stoics can't avoid the altar call conviction of her electrifying gospel performances.

But that night, it was more than just the music that grabbed me. After the show I shuffled to the autograph table to say hi and get a picture. With her radiant smile and demeanor, the multi-genre celebrity reached out her hand and said, "Hi. I'm CeCe." That gracious introduction and the ...

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