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Brian Courtney Wilson: Tiny Desk Concert

It's not quite right to suggest that Brian Courtney Wilson transformed our boisterous, slightly disheveled, certainly overcrowded office into a church on a Wednesday afternoon earlier this summer. It's more like he made us realize that church music can be played just about anywhere. It could have felt strange — we're working and running around, usually too busy to think about our lives outside the office. But we all stopped everything to listen to Wilson, his backup singers (Doritha Smith, Ashia Borders and James Sims) and his keyboardist, Quad.

Together, their music is generous and open. These songs are useful — maybe it sounds cheesy to say they're uplifting, but who hasn't, as Wilson sings in "All I Need," made so many mistakes that they stumbled and fell? In the middle of that song, Wilson turned the lyrics from himself to the crowd: "God will put his healing hands on me — and you, and you and every one of us." I'm not a religious person, but I'm not trying to turn down help when it's offered, either. I felt better immediately.

Wilson said "All I Need" is a song about his implausible dream of becoming a gospel musician. As he stood in front of a packed house, Wilson said that he, too, had once had a desk job. After college, he sold pharmaceuticals for close to seven years while married and a father. His territory was right next to a church in downtown Houston and the recording studios of Music World Entertainment. He said he would walk out of doctors' offices after making sales calls and look up at a huge billboard of Destiny's Child, and wonder what it would take to work in that world. Today, if you walk by that same billboard, Wilson's face is up there.

We all have dreams like that, and Wilson sounds like somebody you know — albeit somebody you know with tremendous breath control, a delicate vibrato and stage presence for days. Somebody whose album, like Wilson's Just Love, has been on the Billboard gospel charts for more than a year — as of today, it's still in the Top 10.

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Frannie Kelley is co-host of the Microphone Check podcast with Ali Shaheed Muhammad.
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