CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The soulful voice of gospel singer/songwriter Angie Richardson is an unforgettable sound.
"It's my gift," she said of her music ministry. "It is truly a God-given gift. I can start singing a song and truly the Lord creates it. Suddenly, it's there. That is God.
"My music is soulful because it comes from my soul," she said. "It is anointed because God anointed me to perform the gift he has given me. I just sing what I feel. If I feel it, I know someone else will feel it."
Richardson, a contemporary/traditional gospel singer and musician, has performed locally, nationally and internationally. She lives and works in the Charleston area and most recently has spent lots of time as a traveling musician, playing piano and singing at various houses of worship.
On a recent Sunday, she was at Father's House Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston where the Rev. Lloyd Hill is pastor.
Richardson, who has had no formal training, has been singing and playing piano since childhood.
"Once upon a time, I was born in Athens, Georgia, and raised in Chesapeake, West Virginia," she said. "My mother and I lived with my grandparents and my mentally impaired uncle. Both my grandparents and my mother were preachers. They were very strict."
Her mother, the Rev. A. Verely Houff, was pastor of New Jerusalem Non-Denomicational Church in Kanawha City when she passed away in 2005.
Richardson began singing in church when she was only 6 years old.
As she was growing up, she was not allowed to attend dances, ballgames or movies. However, she was permitted to play the piano.
"When I was 10, my grandmother taught me to play my first song, 'Sweet Hour of Prayer,'" she said. "The people in Chesapeake paid the price. They heard the sour notes in the beginning."
She attended a small Pentecostal church in Chesapeake where she played for the congregation. When she was 12, her grandmother decided she should have piano lessons.
"I immediately disliked it," she said. "My teacher was so strict that I could not enjoy it. He would play a lesson. I would go home, memorize it and play it perfectly. He caught on. I begged my family to let me quit."
So, she kept honing her skills on her own without reading music.
Her family was a strong faith influence and they often listened to gospel music on the radio. While she enjoyed that, she would sometimes sneak and listen to secular music. "I loved Aretha Franklin."