William D. Hawkins III grew up in a working-class home in the North Side, but he was always rich in encouragement from his mother.
She loved to hear him sing, he said.
"That was my encouragement -- her wish was to see me sing, and so it was like a tribute to her," he said of his 27-year membership in a gospel singing group, Voices for Christ.
Hawkins, 59, and the four other Pittsburgh-area Voices for Christ members -- Rick Young, Henry L. Biggs, Jonathan McMiller and Wayne Walker -- took their love of singing into a studio to record their first international album. "More Like You" was released internationally on Tuesday through Tate Music Group, a family- owned, Christian-rooted company in Mustang, Okla.
"It's a good feeling," Walker said.
Voices for Christ recorded two other albums that were released locally. This time, the group hopes to expand its reach by tapping into up-to-the-minute technology, including iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody and Spotify.
"This is a new technology, and we're glad to be part of it," said Walker, of Wilkinsburg, who, like Hawkins, is an original member of Voices for Christ.
The group recorded "More Like You" over two years, finishing in the summer at Soundscape Studios in McKeesport, Walker said.
Walker, who writes some of the group's lyrics, described its style as contemporary gospel.
"I write from the …