Prime Cuts: Wonderful Grace of God, Before the Throne, It is Well
Tommy Walker was advocating for contemporary worship songs way before worship songs were cool. Way before Bethel Music, Chris Tomlin, Jesus Culture, and Matt Redman became the navigators of today's Contemporary Christian music, Tommy Walker has been resourcing the church with worship staples such as "He Knows My Name," "No Greater Love," "Mourning into Dancing," and many others. Citing Darlene Zschech, Andrae Crouch and Lindell Cooley as influences, Walker has been the worship leader at Christian Assembly since 1990. Nevertheless, Walker's dream is not just in paving new sonic avenues for the church in voicing her praises, but he wants all and not just a sliver of God's children to be behind such an endeavour.
"Generation Hymns 2" is an ambitious project of bringing together people of various generations around the classic hymns of the church. Thus, this new album, released via Dream Worship Records, is not your typical granddaddy dusty high church hymns record. Rather, for this live recording, Walker has enlisted the help of Sean Beck as Walker's co-worship leader, who is in his 20s. Moreover, the execution of the songs here are fresh, uplifting and pretty propulsive relative to most hymn projects. Conversely, this is not just a water-downed album made for teeny boppers with unrecognizable and distorted melodic structures scaffold by a wall of electronic sound. Rather, the songs here are respectful of the hymns' original templates. Further, Walker and his team were sensitive enough to mine and nuance of the hymns for their deep theological cadences.
The album starts off on turbo-charge pace with a rousing rendition of "Joyful Joyful." Backed by the CBC Choir over a full-orchestrated sound with water-flowing piano riffs, "Joyful Joyful" gets a full-bodied treatment reminding us of Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at their best. The adrenaline doesn't stop with "All Creatures of Our God and King," here quipped with lots of danceable Irish Celtic-esque instrumental interludes. Accelerating the pace of "Immortal Invisible," Walker takes us to church. Pay attention to the CBC choir backing "Immortal Invisible," the way they traverse through the song's valleys and mountains of the song is just stunning. Kesha Shantrell and Leon McCrary who take the leads on "It is Well" are names to watch. Sounding like a young Yolanda Adams and Kirk Franklin, they have re-worked "It is Well" into a new soul-stirring ballad with lots of heaven-hitting notes.
Walker is also to be congratulated for also including the less familiar hymns. "Wonderful Grace of Jesus" is a buried treasure that trumps on a stellar melodic line and lyrics that hits right at the Gospel's bull's eye. "Before the Throne," another lesser known number, could easily rival the best of our modern worship songs. Bringing us right into God's throne room, the church's worship would thrive if we have more of these songs. "Generation Hymns 2" not only ease the divide between choruses and hymns, but it's one that joins generations together around songs of deep theological insights and truth.