Prime Cuts: Only Jesus Can Heal This Hurting World, Just a Closer Walk with You,Just as I Am
Save for a few musical geniuses such as Matt Rolling, Elton John and Billy Joel, Gordon Mote is a rare breed. When he puts his fingers to work on those ivory keys, the piano incarnates with a life of its own. He can take the most familiar tune and makes it appear fresh and in vogue again. Thus, Mote is the perfect candidate to do a hymns album. Further, his soaring tenor has such a theatrical impetus that when he sings characters in his song take on a three dimensional persona. Hymns and Songs of Inspiration is precisely what the titular indicates: here you will find Mote putting his signature touches on the sonic chestnuts of the church augmented by three contemporary worship songs, and one original.
Before we delve into an exposition of this triumvirate of songs, it's appropriate say a word about Mote. Mote is beloved in the Southern Gospel arena for his appearances before millions on the Gaither Homecoming concerts and broadcasts. His instrumental prowess has made him a studio MVP for Country artists (Alan Jackson, Darius Rucker, Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley), Pop artists (Sheryl Crow and Kelly Clarkson) and Inspirational/CCM artists (Steven Curtis Chapman, Matthew West). On the heels of his Dove Award nominated All Things New, this new album is helmed by Mote, along with industry legends Phil Johnson and Wayne Haun.
Hands down, the absolute best song on this record is Mote's own original "Only Jesus can Heal This Hurting World." In the light of our recent European crisis, "Only Jesus" is the elixir for all the ills we have been seeing on TV. With lyrics rightly focused on Jesus, a melody that traverses through valleys and mountains, and Mote's gorgeous delivery, it's a challenge to fault this track. When Mote handles hymns such as "Just as I Am," "I Surrender All," and "Amazing Grace," he starts each one of them with the lovely touch of the piano bringing out a devotional and worshipful quality to these songs. It would do the soul so much good to have these songs playing early in the morning as we quietly worship along with an open Bible in our laps.
Most refreshing is the jazzy rendition of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee." With just the right swing every step of this great hymn is to be cherished. One should also not forget the rousing Western flavoured "When We All Get to Heaven." However, Mote seems to shave away his own patented piano-driven sound when it comes to his take of the newer worship songs. Matt Maher's "Because He Lives Amen," for instance, gets a more polished contemporary pop gloss. It's not bad but it's just that Mote ends up sounding like the million and one CCM artists out there. Save perhaps by his seasoned worshipful nuances, Francesca Battistelli's recent #1 "Holy Spirit" and Kari Jobe's "O the Blood" are only a tad better.
If one could rank the songs: his own composition here is just top notch, followed by his unique touches on the old hymns. Unfortunately, with the newer worship songs, he tetters on the pedantic side. Nevertheless, Mote is a maestro of an artist: his way with the piano, his uncanny ability to feel the gist of the songs, and his ear of turning a song his are what makes this album indispensable.