Prime Cuts: 'Til the Storm Passes By, Shut De Do (Featuring the Martins), Sow Mercy
"Happy Rhythm" is not just the title of Gaither Vocal Band's (GVB) new album, but it's an apt description of the pulsating celebrative cadence of the this live collection. Bill Gaither once again showcases why he is the grandfather of Southern Gospel music. Despite having 15 songs clocking in at three minutes shy of an hour, there's not a soporific moment on this album. GVB has a way of getting our ears glued to each and every note as they bounce, croon, boogie woogie and worship along with these well-chosen and yet diverse pieces, some of which are evergreen hymns, new songs, and other Christian music favorites. Comprising of the aforementioned Gospel legend Bill Gaither, David Phelps, Wes Hampton, Adam Crabb and Todd Suttles, the Gaither Vocal Band have been a mainstay of Southern Gospel for the last 26 years. Over the years, they have had 2 Grammys, 17 Dove Award wins, and a slew of hits hat could cover an entire mile.
"Happy Rhythm" is a live recording taped from their performance at Columbia, Tennessee last year. Perhaps most bittersweet is to hear them sing the title cut "Happy Rhythm." The song first appeared on GVB's previous studio album "Sometimes It Takes a Mountain" and it's written by the Mosie Lister who just passed away recently. Nevertheless, "Happy Rhythm" demonstrates Lister's mettle as a songwriter as it's an ultra-catchy toe-tapping boogie woogie number that is the perfect vehicle for GVB's layered (but tight) harmonies. Originally taken from GVB's 2012 "Pure and Simple" album, "Winds of Change" is a harmonica-driven country-blues piece that affirms that Jesus is with us even in the midst of the storm clouds. On the same thematic terrain is GVB's gorgeous rendition of the hymn "'Til the Storm Passes By," which is delivered here with feelings and affinity.
Just as with many of Bill Gaither's ever popular Homecoming Series, there are some notable guests brought in to sing with GVB. Most satisfying are the Martins. Ever since their recent accapella record, the Martins have demonstrated the wonders of what their voices can do. They are definitely to be awed when they join GVB on the accapella-sounding "Shut De Do." Also taking the minimalistic approach (though not as effective) are the Nelons who offer a soulful Gospel-ish rendition of "Do Unto Others." Charlotte Richtie joins GVB on the fiddle and steel drenched "Building Bridges," which errs on the side of tedium. And the Issacs are on cruise control with their usual greatness as they accompany GVB on the bluegrassy hymn "I Know Who Holds Tomorrow."
But the gem of this record has to be "Sow Mercy." A piano ballad, "Sow Mercy" speaks of how God can cause the seeds of the Gospel to sprout in astonishing ways. Couched in a well-crafted narrative song and add to that GVB's tender and emotionally rich delivery, this song certainly can be a heart tugger. Thus, "Happy Rhythm" not only is an album that causes our feet to tap, but it also has a way of making our hearts flutter with worship, delight, and adoration for Jesus.