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Neshawn Calloway is releasing a three-song EP this spring, with two of the songs written by her.

If you go

› What: Neshawn Calloway in concert

› When: 6 p.m. Sunday

› Where: Signal Crest United Methodist Church, 1005 Ridgeway Ave., Signal Mountain

› Admission: Free, but love offering will be taken

› Information: 423-886-2330

Singer Neshawn Calloway is well-known around Chattanooga for the Bessie Smith tribute shows she has created. Dressed in a flapper's fringed sheath and beaded headband, her impersonation of the Empress of Blues is dead-on.

After 17 years perfecting the impersonation, an album of Bessie's blues would seem an obvious choice for Calloway's first recording. Instead, however, she's working on a contemporary Christian album of all-original songs that share the theme of God's mercy in healing and restoring troubled souls.

Calloway will preview one of the songs from that album on Sunday night when she presents "In His Presence," a Palm Sunday concert at Signal Crest United Methodist Church. Accompanying her will be guitarist Gretrell Watkins, bassist Stanley Elder, drummer Twain Dawson and keyboardist Sam Patton, who is also producing her album. Backing her will be singers Jarvis Menafee, Eurdis Moore and Pamela Slack.

"Over the years I've been at Signal Crest, Neshawn has come up at various times and provided special music for the church. She's one of their favorites," says Allan Ledford, Signal Crest choir director. "When the church staff was discussing what to do Palm Sunday night, she was the first idea mentioned."

Calloway, who is head of the vocal department at Center for Creative Arts magnet school, has been a guest soloist in a number of area churches as well as her home church, Temple of Faith Church of God in Christ. She says she toyed with the idea of a worship CD for a couple of years before an evangelist preaching a revival at her church suggested she needed to record her voice. That was the confirmation she'd been looking for.

"The project didn't come to pass that year, but the door opened for me to have a chance to work with Sam Patton, and we started working on the project last year," she says.

She has recorded three songs to date, and they have been compiled onto an EP she'll use to test the waters this spring.

"I want to get it out and see how it does," she says.

Two of the songs — "Make It Through" and "I've Come to Heal the Broken" — were written by her and based on her own experiences.

"The words for both came from things I've gone through in life — being divorced, having to have surgery, being in broken places — that I know God can bring you out of and heal," she says. "These songs came from a very personal place."

She adds that the music for "Make It Through" was written by the Rev. J. Anthony Taylor, pastor of Greater Community Church of Chattanooga. The EP's third song is "I'm Restoring Life to You," written by her friend, Willie Thomas.

"The goal of this album is to be encouraging, restore the listener's faith in God's ability to bring them out of the hurt they've experienced and change their lives for the better," Calloway says.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

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