Angie Hoskins Aldridge, who fronts the Hoskins Family, has a voice that's larger than life. Yet, it's not one of those aimless caterwauling displays of melisma that American idol wannabes often utilized to get votes. Rather, interwoven with a Southern charm (that one can't help but think of Reba McEntire), Aldridge shows that she can demonstrate both high soaring belts as well as thoughtful restrains. This is why Aldridge's voice commands attention: her sky scraping crescendos definitely have a way of waking the soporific to rejoice with her in those Christ exalting highs. And when she dives into her quieter moments, we can't help but listen along in her contemplative prayerful whispers. Together with her family members Reva Hoskins, Abby Aldridge, Ricky Hoskins and Rick Smith, they are the Hoskins Family. After taking a hiatus from the music scene after a successful run in the Southern Gospel scene, "A Gathering: The Hits of Then and Now" is their "comeback" album of sorts. Released on Daywind Records, this is their debut CD since 2005's "It's Over.... Let Eternity Begin."
Perspicuous from the album's titular, "A Gathering: The Hits of Then and Now" is a "best of" package consisting of songs gathered from their three formerly released Daywind releases augmented by three brand new songs. Let's start first with the new songs: "Whenever I Hear His Name" is easily the cynosure among the trio. Already a radio hit charting at no. 6 on the Singing News Chart for March, it doesn't take a genius to figure out why radio has warmed up to this Marty Funderbunk and Joseph Habedank power ballad. Listening to how Aldridge builds the intensity of her love for our Lord Jesus Christ from her tender contralto to her majestic belts is just breathtaking. Joined by her 17-year-old daughter Abigail and Joyce Martin, "God is Big" is a funky Gospel burner with lots of foot stomping worship moments. While "Land of Endless Tomorrows," another Marty Funderbunk ballad entry, helps us fix our gaze upon heaven over a tune that is just as celestial as the lyrics.
As for the remaining 8 cuts: the lion's share of them comes from their most successful efforts "Safe Thus Far." The aforementioned title cut "Safe Thus Far" has classic written all over it. Coming from the pen of the legendary Kyla Rawland, "Safe Thus Far" not only has a melody that pulverizes but it contains words testimonial with a faith that transforms the way we see the storms of life. "I've smiled in the face of stormy seas as they rolled apart/I've rested in peace as He spoke to my trembling heart/I really don't know what lies ahead/But I have no doubt no fear no dread/I'll still be standing telling my story safe thus far." If you are buried under the tyranny of despair, give "When the Savior Wipes the Tears from Our Eyes" a listen. Like an old trusted friend, the weepy sounding steel guitar strikes an understanding chord while Aldridge's seasoned nuances brings comfort that functions like a balm for the soul.
"What About His Grace," calls to mind their No.1 smash "Safe Thus Far," intertwines lines from the hymn "Amazing Grace" in what is a passable melody that celebrates Christ's redeeming work. While on "You Keep Loving Me" shows that Aldridge not only knows how to work a groove, but she also knows how to craft one. After years of being away, it's a treat to have the Hoskins Family back. At the risk of sounding far too artificial, many artists today are reticent of being too passionate and engaging, but this is not so with the Hoskins Family. For when you sing about the Cross where the drama of heaven and earth meet, how can you not sing with a powerful abandonment?