Nashville, TN (September 20, 2022)
Generation Z’s favorite Gospel singer, Zacardi Cortez, has dropped his third album and he aims for it to touch every generation. “There’s something for everyone,” he says. Imprint (Live in Memphis)—on ZetRoc/Black Smoke Music Worldwide—is the Houston native’s most poignant, personal project yet and the first for his own ZetRoc label. “This record is all of who I am, in all the different styles and ways I love to worship and sing,” he continues. “It’s 100% my imprint.” The thirteen-track collection features guest performances from some of Cortez’s favorite singers such as Kim Burrell, Tim Rogers, and Lisa Knowles-Smith. All those sonic threads mesh to weave an engaging and riveting string of modern songs that reflect the passion of traditional black church music.

Anyone remotely familiar with Gospel radio over the last decade has heard Cortez’ incomparable voice that combines the grit of classic soul men like Bobby Womack and Eddie Levert with the cathartic power of the pulpit. That fascinating combination has hung over Cortez’s clouds of Billboard No. 1 Gospel radio hits such as the retro anthem “Oh How I Love You,” the `80s throwback groove “YDIA,” and the acoustic calm of “1 on 1,” a song that reigned at the top of the charts for five weeks in 2014. Deep fans first heard his hair-raising vocals on James Fortune & FIYA’s hits such as “The Blood,” “Let Your Power Fall,” and “I Believe” which spent nineteen weeks at the apex of the Billboard Gospel Airplay Chart in 2011.

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“Zacardi’s voice is his imprint,” says Black Smoke Music Worldwide founder Kerry Douglas who first discovered Cortez when he was just a teenager who loved to sing around H-Town churches. “His voice is leaving a mark on the music industry. When people hear it, they know instantly know who it is because no one sounds exactly like him. His God-given talent has left an undeniable stamp on Gospel music.”

“It’s the first time I’ve been able to write or be this involved in a project,” Cortez says enthusiastically. “I wrote, co-wrote, or arranged everything on here to show that I’ve got something to say.” Alongside producers Morgan Turner and Marcus Caylen, he is saying a lot and he wanted to say it live. “Honestly, I think I’m much better live,” he laughs. “I like studio and all of that, but I love the live sound and the raw feel of the stage best. That’s where I’m really in my element.” It shows too. The set opens with the joyous up-tempo worship track, “You Deserve It,” which morphs into a rousing quartet stomper. He then shifts into the aggressive backbeat, “The Best,” where he channels the ferociously raspy roar of Otis Redding or James Brown working a chitlin circuit crowd back in the day.

Next up is, “Testimony,” a funky jam with a `70s swagger. “My family recorded that back in 2014 but we never put it out,” Cortez says. “That song is my favorite because of my history of doing it with them and just because of the message of it. It just stuck with me.”

Anyone who’s heard Cortez’ current Top Five radio single edit, “You’ve Been Good to Me,” is in for a surprise. There’s about five more minutes of it, full of gripping autobiographical testifying about depression and the trials of life, to round out the full length nine-minute album version. “Oh Thank You,” is a quartet vamp that finds Cortez squalling lines with quartet king, Tim Rogers, on a riveting story about Jesus healing the ten lepers. “Lord, Do It for Me,” is a bluesy plea for divine intervention that ends with an infectious praise team call and response.

The final live track is “You Don’t Know,” a fiery 1960s styled bop, that features powerhouse vocalist, Lisa Knowles Smith. “I always wanted to get Lisa on a track that would really take advantage of her gift and let her just drive the song,” Cortez adds. “I found this one and thought she would be perfect for it. I love the way it came out. I think we’re like the new Ike & Tina Turner on this one.” They clearly evoke the Turners’ heyday with their ferocious vocal workout. The album is rounded out with bonus studio cuts of Cortez’ two most recent No. 1 hits, “Oh How I Love You” and “You Don’t Know.”

“It was rough, and it was tough, “ Cortez laughs of completing Imprint, “I learned a lot of things, but I got it done. Also, I’ve got the best team. Kerry Douglas and Black Smoke are on top of everything. Nicole Heyward and the whole Creative Classic team are doing great things. I’ve got so many other people around me who are really helping me and pushing me to the next level.”

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