Prime Cuts: Old People, Come As You Are, How We Love
Pharrell Williams, Loretta Lynn, and Beth Nielsen Chapman are not names you would expect to find listed conterminously on a CD sleeve. It takes someone as ingenious as the genre-bending Mark Lowry to festoon the works of these diverse writers together and make them his very own. Despite the songs' sui genesis, Lowry places his own patented sound on them making Pharrell Williams' recent #1 pop hit "Happy" sounds right at home with Loretta Lynn's decades-old "Everyone Wants to Go to Heaven." Thus, never on this 11-track album is there any disjointed or awkward moment. "How We Love" is not only rich in its songs' diversity, but it also finds Lowry bringing in a red-carpet of artists to sing with him. This includes Dailey & Vincent, Sisters, Jimmy & Sonya Isaacs Yeary, and the Martins. "How We Love" is the follow-up to 2013's "Unforgettable," an underrated gem that finds Lowry offering jazzy-pop interpretations to the classic love songs of yore.
Lowry is known and loved around the world as a trusted voice in the realm of gospel music and beyond. For more than four decades later, his legacy is forever sealed as an innately entertaining communicator who can, at once, make audiences laugh, cry and reflect. Lowry is a singer, storyteller, humorist, author and songwriter, whose lyric to "Mary Did You Know?" resulted in one of the most loved modern Christmas songs of this century. This captivating song, which he co-wrote with Buddy Greene, has been recorded more than 400 times by artists from every genre including: Reba McEntire, CeeLo Green, Clay Aiken, Michael English, Kenny Rogers, Wynonna Judd, The Gaither Vocal Band and a long list of others.
Considering the fact that Lowry's signature hit is "Mary Did You Know," it's interesting that this album opens with another song where the mother of Jesus is the protagonist again. "Mary Was the First One to Carry the Gospel" is an apt sequel to "Mary Did You Know." Over some zesty old school Gospel oohs and aahs, this prequel finds a Mary not in her contemplative stare, but on her feet heralding the good news of Jesus. Cindy Morgan who has recently released her own album contributes "Worry." A rootsy Americana tune that speaks of Lowry's resolve to trust in Jesus; the paean is given a rustic shine with its stunning banjo licks. Though not the best track off the album, Loretta Lynn's "Everyone Wants to Go to Heaven" is the album's lead single. Here Dailey and Vincent offering their soaring harmonies to Lowry's stripped down pseudo-bluegrassy makeover.
The ballads here are sublime: take a listen to "Old People" and your heart will be churned. Nested in the sounds of its warm guitar pickings, "Old People" speaks of how valuable seniors are to God. In our culture that venerates youth, this song is so counter-cultural, yet it is so Jesus-pleasing. Beth Nielsen Chapman (who co-wrote Faith Hill's "This Kiss") continues on this theme of love with the piano-based title cut "How We Love." Though one is not even sure Chapman is a Christian or not, but she certainly hits the nail on the head as far as what Biblical love is. Reba Rambo's "Come as You Are" is another highlight ---this hymn-like invitation to Jesus is so heart rendering, compelling and so grace-centered.
Congratulations are in order to Lowry again for another great album. Each song contributes something unique to the identity of this album making the listening experience rewarding and worshipful. And Lowry's expressive and animated vocals further add icing to the cake.