Prime Cuts: I Look to You, Moments Like These, He'll Hold You
For Selah music knows no bounds. This trio has a way of amalgamating traditional hymns, r & b soul numbers, inspirational ballads, rootsy Southern Gospel, and modern AC Christian making these paeans their own. And they have made a career out of this. Likewise for their eighth studio album "Hope of the Broken World" the strains of these various genres interwoven in these 12 cuts. Featuring a bilingual African-English take on the hymn "'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus," this Christian trio effortlessly shifts gear to some inspirational indulges with the Father-daughter ballad "Moments Like This" and then to a soaring version of Whitney Houston's 2009 classic "I Look to You." Yet, they have not left their Southern Gospel/country fans high and dry. Dolly Parton's signature hit "Coat of Many Colors" get a ruminative read and they get all gritty with Buddy and Julie Miller's rootsy "Shelter Me." Not only do they blend together the various musical genres, they also harmonize with each other vocally seamlessly creating a beautiful vocal masterpiece.
Of the songs that really work include Amy Perry's take of Whitney Houston's 2009 comeback record "I Look to You." Written by R. Kelly, this soaring ballad speaks of looking to God in life's crashing moments. While Houston takes a more bombastic approach in her original rendition, Perry's interpretation explores the song's gentler nuances. Thus, both Houston and Perry give complementary glowing versions of this superior ballad. Perry again hits the home run with Christa Wells "On the Mountain." With a Miranda Lambert-like vulnerability, Perry acknowledges with great earnestness our need for God and his grace to get us to heaven. More rootsy moments come with Allan Halt's take of Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors." An intricate narrative written by Parton about contentment despite her poverty as a child has so many echoes of the Joseph story in the Bible. Since Halt has a lower register than Parton, his read is imbued with a greater maturity and sensitivity. Buddy and Julie Miller's "Shelter Me" is a folk Gospel piece inspired from the words from Psalm 91 has a gritty and stripped down bluesy feel that might not sit well if you are into Selah's fuller sound.
Much better are the lush ballads and this includes "Moments Like This." Written by Michael Bogg and Todd Smith, "Moments Like These" is a heart wrenching love ballad of a father cherishing each moment he spends with his 5 year-old daughter. The song trumps on its attention paid to the details of activities the dad enjoys with his child. "He'll Hold You," the sole entry composed single handed by Amy Perry, finds the trio turning their love to the heavenly Father on this heaven soaring worship anthem. With Todd Smith's "Be Still," the swaggering guitar riffs and the thunderous chorus, calls to mind Bryan Adams at his best on this sonic call to be quiet before God despite our fast paced life. Awash with African congas and even a verse in African, "'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" isn't precisely the average pedantic grandfather's hymn. Rather, Selah has indeed transformed this chestnut into a beautiful worship piece with a global perspective in mind.
Not everything works, the title cut "Hope of the Broken World" is faulted on the use of clichés in spades: "You are the Day Spring/You are the Morning Star/...You are Salvation." While Chris Eaton's average sounding "I Turn to You" becomes redundant after Perry's stellar rendition of "I Look to You." Nevertheless, despite these quibbles, "Hope of the Broken World" resembles a beautiful tapestry weaving together threads of different influences. But more importantly, these songs weave for us a picture of what it means to relate to God and how we are to love others.