There are inextricable links between Coppe Cantrell’s musical art and personal journey. A longtime supporting player in the music world with appearances on past releases from 2Pac and Coolio, among others, Cantrell is far from a novice to the music world. Still, it wasn’t until she gave her life over to Christ that her musical contributions blossomed in earnest. Naysayers may point to her need for a solid foundation following the death of her husband, but Cantrell’s latest album The Breastplate of Righteousness attests to her sincerity and how thoroughly she’s incorporated Christianity into her life. The thirteen songs on this release are flesh and blood testimonies to God’s continuing role in her voyage.

The intensely rhythmic quasi-reggae of “War Cry” grabs your attention. There are certainly few if any antecedents for a song and sound such as this in the modern pop landscape, but it isn’t a jarring ride. Pairing her avowal of faith, framed in terms of struggle, alongside the song’s obviously apocalyptic overtones is, in the end, a clever bit of thematic transposition. Cantrell is aware of admonishments to the faithful in traditional reggae and ska and gives audiences her own Christian spin on this approach. The balance and bright clarity of the production set a high standard.

Cantrell’s mix of myriad vocal styles highlights “Work on You”. Blending her singing with brief spoken passages is especially effective without her ever relying too heavily on the contrast. Moving into this modern R&B stance following the Caribbean flavor of the album’s opener proves to be a seamless transition and her faith has a correspondingly softer edge in the song’s lyrics. “Dance in the Dark” has arguably the album’s best bass line and it imbues the cut with an instant hook that’s likely to linger with listeners as one of The Breastplate of Righteousness’ high-water marks. Synthesizers dapple color throughout the piece and never sound garish; they are flourishes that radiate warmth and light. Her vocals shine once again as well.

Bass and synths team up to serve as the foundation for the next track’s arrangement. “Set Me Free” has a lively arrangement that embodies the track’s title and Cantrell puts an exclamation point on its sentiments with her highly charged vocal. The title track wafts past listeners with elegant minimalism and an arrangement focusing on Cantrell’s voice first and foremost. It’s a wise decision. This is pure balladry, but never the hackneyed commercial variety. Many will hear it as one of the album’s most substantive statements, certainly lyrically.

“Born Again” lulls you with its gentle swing and the accompanying vocal harmonies rank among the album’s finest moments. The collision of gospel and pop influences during the finale “Come and Accept Jesus” helps give the performance a sweet insistence that even the skeptical will enjoy. It’s clear that Coppe Cantrell is cognizant of the need to adorn her spiritual concerns with the most appealing musical décor she can summon. There isn’t a single miss over the long course of her album The Breastplate of Righteousness.

Heather Savage