Benjamin Clark's "Him and Hymns" is a dangerous endeavor. For starters, "Him and Hymns" finds the Texas worship leader lining up 5 of his own compositions with 5 of the church's most sacred hymns. Often such an effort by itself would invite unfair criticisms as no song written within the last 50 years could ever hold a candle to the lofty standard of the church's most treasured hymns. Furthermore, with the proliferation of albums dedicated to hymn singing, what can an artist do to prevent a project from sounding claptrap? Thankfully, on both fronts, Benjamin Clark not only passes muster, but he has given all these song (regardless of their sui genesis) his own voice and interpretation. But before we delve into an exposition of the record, it's fair to say a word as an introduction to Clark. Born and raised in North Virginia, Clark was raised in a very musical family. Currently he leads worship at Tyler Vineyard Church in Texas. And he occassionally fills in for Paul Baloche in leading worship at Community Christian Fellowship whenever Baloche is on tour.
"Him and Hymns" is Clark's third release. And as aforementioned, the CD finds Clark mixing 5 of his own songs with familiar hymns such as "My Jesus I Love Thee," "This is My Father's World," "It is Well," "Love Lifted Me" and "The Solid Rock." The album opens on a familiar and cozy pace with "My Jesus I Love You." With percolating beats that remind us of those traditional African drums and adorning with an echo-y aura of choral voices, Clark has redeemed "My Jesus I Love Thee" from the Western individualistic sentimentalism we often associate with this hymn. Never one to be bogged down by one style, Clark's rendition of "It is Well" has a dreamy lullaby feel that so gorgeously enhances the hymn's message about trusting God even in life's fiercest tempests. "This is My Father's World" takes us on a country excursion. Apropos to the song's lyric about praising God who reigns over creation, Clark imbues this song with a rustic charm of acoustic guitar, piano and light percussion.
Though Clark's own compositions may not have that eternal melodic acuteness relative to the hymns, but they are by no means paltry. Sounding the most hymn-like is "Kingdom Come Through Us." With words that go beyond the noetic, Clark captures what is cynosure to the message of Jesus in the Gospels. God does not just come to save individuals but He has come to inaugurate His kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ. The breezy guitar riffs of "If There Was A Time" calls to mind the Eagles' "Peaceful Easy Feeling" on what is a song that beckons us to worship God now. Ever one to be accused of being gaudy, the understated "My Rock" is the album's nerve center. A contemplative ballad of trust in God that is raw with emotions; this song was written after Clark witnessed a baby of his dear friends dying of a rare heart disease.
Worship leaders looking for a contemporary piece would do well to incorporate "When You Find Me." With the chorus' hook large enough to draw in the least musically inclined in the congregation and God-centered lyrics, "When You Find Me" is a top-notched worship classic to be. Thus, regardless of whether it is hymns or Clark's own works, everytime when Jesus is exalted in such glowing ways, you know our lives can never remain unchanged. In this regard, Benjamin Clark's "Him and Hymns" needs warning labels all over. This is indeed a dangerous record.