If thereís a songsmith who understands heartache and pain, itís Byron Cage, a man who has repeatedly touched gospel music heaven, only to be reminded time and again that the road to lifeís mountaintops is often spent in the valley of the shadow.
Cage knows the struggle well and his fourth CD, FAITHFUL TO BELIEVE, is a joyous testament of praise after a season of trials ó a soul-searching period where he took stock of his ministry, his music, and his personal relationships.
Recorded live at Detroitís Second Ebenezer Baptist Church, and produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Aaron Lindsey (Israel & New Breed, Marvin Sapp, Martha Munizzi), FAITHFUL TO BELIEVE is a nonstop showcase of praise anthems, worship ballads, and outright church ó a faculty that comes naturally to Cage.
"I was born into my parents being ministers," Cage says. "I always knew I had a God-given gift, a calling that I needed to maximize to the next level."
Maximize is an understatement. With FAITHFUL TO BELIEVE, Cage has collected all of the lessons he has learned as a musician, gospel music chart-topper, Grammy nominee and Stellar Award winner, and reconciled them into what is unquestionably his best album yet; one that finds Cage tapping his church-minded instincts and pulse for Sunday morning like never before. FAITHFUL TO BELIEVE is a project for such a time as this.
" "I think the times that we live in have been so taxing on so many people," Cage says. "People are going through extreme financial hardships ó losing homes, losing jobs. I want people to receive a faith-building message, to remind them that God will supply all of their needs according to His riches and glory."
That message rings throughout FAITHFUL TO BELIEVE. With energy that rivals such Cage classics as "The Presence of the Lord Is Here" and "I Will Bless the Lord," the opening track "I Give You Praise" storms out of the gate to assert the tone and tenor of the album ó that God is to be given all the glory despite lifeís circumstances.
After that fiery call to worship, Cage leads the 3,000-plus congregants at Detroitís Second Ebenezer Baptist Church to an even higher time of praise with the irresistible "Faithful to Believe," a no-holds-barred, reggae-infused track which is also bound for the top of the charts as the discís first single.
By this point, its evident Cage is the one in command, with Lindsey serving as an able point man making sure the musical atmosphere is just right for the leading man. Everything gels together marvelously: the songs are tight, the song craft brilliant, and the vibe straight electrifying.
When itís time for gospel favorite Tye Tribbett to take the stage in the rousing "In the Midst," all the stops are pulled. More than a duet, the song is a duel ó an opportunity for both Cage and his guest to declare as loud as they can Godís fidelity through lifeís trials and tribulations.
As things slow down, Cage has no trouble ushering the saints into a deeper time of worship. Building on the premise that God is an on-time God, the rousing ballad "He Will Answer" sees Cage bidding listeners to fall back on the Lordís steadfast power.
The churchiest stretch of the record by far is the one-two punch of "Simply Yes" and the toe-tapping "I Canít Hold It" ó songs that bear witness to Cageís 12-year tenure as Senior Minister of Church Worship and Administration at Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in Fort Washington, Maryland.
"My music is so geared towards the church, I like the songs that have the ability to be sung on Sunday morning and revivals and bible studies," Cage explains, "songs that will allow choir directors to teach to their congregations throughout the year."
In a twist of irony, the song Cage is most proud of on FAITHFUL TO BELIEVE is the most unlike anything he has ever recorded. Bearing strong urban, rock, and pop elements, "Goodbye" is a cornerstone of the album ó easily the most autobiographical of Cageís career as well as a manifesto he hopes people can latch on to.
"I think itís going to be a song that Iím going to sing for years to come," Cage says. "Everybody has to say goodbye to something. Everybody has things in their lives, situations they have to say goodbye to in order to move on to the next level. I work as hard as I work because I know the trials of life donít last forever. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. When I come out of trials, I come out of it with my hands up, telling God, ĎThank you.í"
Thatís a life lesson Cage has put to the test. Born in Grand Rapids, MI, raised in nearby Detroit, and brought up in an environment where music and ministry were paramount, the singer was destined for greatness from an early age. When he was merely 4 years of age, he performed his first church solo; come his teenage years, he was an accomplished saxophonist and choir director at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan; and by the time he reached his late teens, he was a bona fide, self-taught keyboardist.
Cageís innate talents were developed further through a season of learning at the feet of gospel legend Thomas Whitfield, with whom he toured and performed. Cage then obtained a full scholarship to Atlantaís historic Morehouse College, where he absorbed the theory and the mechanics of the music he loved.
In 2003, Cage was catapulted to the big leagues of gospel music with his award-winning self-titled debut, followed by the breakout CD The Prince of Praise. Since that landmark disc, Cage has become a music workhorse, releasing two subsequent albums ó 2005ís Invitation to Worship and 2007ís Live at the Apollo: The Proclamation ó all of which have ranked high on Billboard gospel charts and received numerous awards and nominations.
In the end, what matters most to Cage is that those teetering on the brink of despair can step out in faith and declare the sovereignty of the One who loved us first.
"I want people to know that they can go to sleep knowing that God is in control," Cage says, "that we can be glad and rejoice amidst calamities and horrific situations that are going on around us, that if weíre faithful to believe, we can come out the other end as pure gold."
Also catch Bryon Live in Chicago this June (2011) for a live recording. More details on the tour page!