Stellar Award nominees and award winners Dawkins & Dawkins return to the gospel music scene with the release of "From Now On," released July 26 and their first album in more than 10 years.
The gospel duo - Anson and Eric, sons of the Charlene A. and Bishop Roy C. Dawkins, pastor of the Greater Zion Temple Church in Steubenville for the past 26 years - both graduated from the former Wintersville High School in 1987, and both now reside on the West Coast.
Eric now calls Los Angeles his home, while Anson lives in Tacoma, Wash. The duo said their new record is a mixture of contemporary gospel with an R&B edge, and it's already making waves, debuting at No. 4 on the Billboard gospel charts. The album also had more pre-orders on Amazon.com than any modern gospel record in the outlet's history, said the brothers.
"We're actually on Light Records, which is the gospel division of Entertainment One, which is a huge media company based in Canada," said Eric, adding the legendary gospel label was home to modern gospel giants such as Andre Crouch.
Both said the new record was long overdue, and the wait was because of problems with their former record label. Anson said both brothers believed it was time to begin recording again together.
"I think it's because the timing was right," Anson said of the duo's decision to begin recording again. "The way we wanted to do it we weren't able to. Challenges at the label made it impossible for us to do another album at that time."
The brothers have a track record of gospel hits, including "Everybody Needs Somebody" and "I Will Rest." They received mass attention for "Focus," their last studio release in 1998. That record landed in the top 200 on the Billboard chart and produced the hit songs "Wrapped Up," "Praisin' On My Mind" and "Need To Know."
The two said they always had the idea of recording another album, but Eric was involved in production work for some heavy hitters in Los Angeles, said Anson.
"When Eric moved to L.A. his focus was on production," said Anson, adding his brother has worked with major talent, including Quincy Jones, Christina Aguilera, Brian McKnight, Mary S. Blige, Fantasia and Ruben Studdard.
"That's the reason I moved to L.A., to get involved in music production," said Eric.
Both said their love of gospel sprang from being raised in the home of a minister.
"I think our parents helped the (musical) direction we chose," said Eric, adding major influences on the brothers' style include Crouch, Rance Allen, Edwin & Walter Hawkins and the Winans. "We mostly heard gospel music in the house. That's where we got our influences."
The brothers later on started listening to R&B and funk artists, such as Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire and Parliament.
"That was the first secular record I ever listened to," said Eric of Parliament's classic record "Up for the Downstoke." "I remember thinking that was a whole other thing."
The different pop, gospel, R&B and worship influences are what led to the new recording, they said.
"We're raising the bar with elements that our fans are expecting to hear but also stepping into some areas that we haven't ventured into before, including pop and rock that will, no doubt, place us in other arenas," said Eric.
Both brothers said "From Now On" is diverse, including the lead track "Get Down," which is a call to God. Other tracks include "Pray For Me" and "Best Man," featuring Warryn Campbell.
Even though the brothers live on the West Coast they haven't forgotten their affection for the Ohio Valley.
"Ohio will always be home, because that's where our parents are," said Eric.
"From Now On" can be purchased on iTunes, Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Amazon.com.