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Avery Sunshine: Heaven only knows

Soul music for lost souls

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With nothing more than plaintive piano chords and a smidgen of truth, Avery Sunshine's musical joy will make you grab a church fan.

Not since Aretha Franklin redeemed "do right" women has a vocalist spoken so candidly to the core of feminine dilemmas. "My musical testimony may mean the difference between a sister living or dying, eating or starving, praying or giving up," says the pianist/singer/songwriter, who is cognizant her music is ministry for an overexposed generation raised on BET – otherwise known as Black Exploitation Television.

Sunshine's distinct character is best showcased when paired with jazzy tracks allowing her vocals to flow mellifluously, as heard on her anguished appeal "Ugly," a melodic apology to a lover that Hallmark could never capture.

Decisively positioned in the black church, staging gospel productions is her bread and butter. But Sunshine has also lent her vocal talents to Paramount Pictures' The Fighting Temptations and served as the lead keyboardist for Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns. Training the next generation of gospel legends, the spiritual guru directs teen choirs at both the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue and at Zion Hill Baptist Church in southwest Atlanta.

Her unique mix of R&B, jazz, soul, hip-hop and gospel melodies – dubbed "jazzgosoul" by a friend – has led to collaborations with choirboy Anthony Hamilton, famed pianist David Foster and millennium rat-packer Michael Bublé. Sunshine is more excited about how she affects those in need, however. "The state of music is a reflection of altered values. I hope my songs can be an inspiration to someone else going through [it]."

Avery Sunshine will perform every second Friday beginning Sept. 14, at the Sugar Lounge. 257 Trinity Ave. 404-688-1225. www.sugaratl.com.

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