Prime Cuts: Bless the Beasts and the Children, Is It Any Wonder, Jesus is All I Need
When Kathy Karnes sings, you can't help but listen. Especially when Karnes croons a ballad, she has such a soothing low-reaching alto that you can't help but think of the late Karen Carpenter of the Carpenters' fame. It's that kind of torch singing built upon the tiny heart-surging inflections that can make the sappiest of songs sound like she's singing out your heart's deepest desires. It's that kind of a voice that wraps within itself cadences that open up a whole bundle of nostalgia, arousing within us emotions we never ever thought existed. It's that kind of voice Karen Carpenter had, but has been long buried in the grave when the "Top of the World" singer died of anorexia way back in 1983. In short, when Karnes sings, she pulverizes.
A native of Cleveland, Tennessee, Karnes credits her mother Cleo German for nurturing her within the Gospel music legacy. Though Karnes has had been involved in church music all her life she has also spent 32 years of her life as a school teacher. However, a few years ago, she felt God's calling to step forward into the music ministry full-time. Thus, we have her debut album "Faithful to the End." On this project, she has partnered with Roger Talley (of Talley Trio) as producer. The songs range from slow and pensive ballads to rousing Southern Gospel rattlers; from originals to some familiar tunes.
If you really want to hear Karnes at her best, don't miss "Is It Any Wonder." Without any hint of exaggeration, this song is the personification of perfection. Listen to the how Karnes makes a head dive into the deep recesses of God's grace in the midst of our strife and pay attention of how she emerges with an understated joy; listening to this track is an experience in itself. Tightening up her vocal resemblance to Karen Carpenter, Karnes has chosen to tackle the Carpenters' 1971 movie theme "Bless the Beasts and the Children." A plaintive sounding ballad that speaks of God's care for the voiceless in our society, Karnes is to be applauded for resurrecting this gem for a new generation. And if you have ever wondered what the Carpenters would sound like doing a Gospel ballad, take a listen to the prayerful "Jesus is All I Need."
The Carpenters connection is less blatant on the more propulsive tracks which allows Karnes to shine on her own credit. "Faithful to the End" has a nice country swing bolstered by a harmony driven chorus that Southern Gospel fans would find great delight in. While "I Will Bless the Lord" brims with so much energy that one could see Karnes devouring this song live. "Hands of the Carpenter" trumps on the song's vivid imagery; a song that reminds us that God knows what He is doing when we don't. However, Dottie Rambo's "I Go to the Rock" has been given such a ravishing and patented reading by the late Whitney Houston that no one (not even Karnes) can ever rival. And to tackle it again simply invites unfair comparisons.
At the end of the day, what sets this project apart is Karnes' voice: hauntingly nostalgic, emotionally layered and spiritually penetrating. Paired that up with a great God-centered ballad, you get something angelic.
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