Prime Cuts: You Never Let Go, Shout to the Lord, Rock of Ages/I Stand Amazed
A record can be trash or a treasure: it all depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking to find a worship album with entirely familiar songs to function as your soundtrack for you to sing along with, Live: Hymns and Worship is a treasured find. Here you are presented with 17 of the most familiar songs coming to us from centuries of church music from the Wesleys up till Darlene Zschech and Hillsong Worship. Penrod who was the lead singer of Gaither Vocal Band from 1994 to 2008 is more than a competent vocalist. His soaring and yet supple tenor not only goes for the nine yards as far as notes are concerned, he sings with fervor and conviction. Moreover, Penrod is genre blind. He can be just as worshipful on a steel-guitar laced countrified version "The Old Rugged Cross" as well as unfazed by the zest of electric guitar blast on "Take My Life."
If you are approaching this record because you are a fan of Penrod based on his previous albums "Hymns" (2012) and "Worship" (2014), you won't be disappointed either. While his preceding albums create a chasm between the older paeans of the church and the more contemporary endeavors, this new album eradicates such a divide. On the same record, you will be able to enjoy the music of worship from the various dispensations of the history of the church. However, the exception this time is that the entire proceeding is recorded live. But be assured that so much overdubs and re-recordings have been done that this new disc doesn't differ much from his studio efforts. Penrod's interaction with the congregation is minimal and the congregation isn't obtrusive in any way. Besides the polite clapping before and after each song, they are unnoticeable.
If you are approaching this album hoping to gain a deeper appreciation of Penrod as an artist, you will be severely disappointed. Penrod sings well - he's on key and he gets emotionally engrossed in his songs, but one doesn't get to hear much of his own interpretations. He sings them like its professional karaoke. And being all tried and true covers, you don't get to hear fresh and new insights from the songs he conveys. Over his last few albums, this seems to be Penrod's pattern. He just sings the tried and true again and again. He makes zero attempt in adding to the oeuvre of worship songs with his own newly written compositions.
Not too many artists have the privilege of the backing of a record label (in this case Gaither Music) or the opportunity of releasing new albums frequently. One would have wished Penrod would treasure these opportunities and make music that bears his own imprint. After all, you don't want to make a career of music singing professional karaoke, do you?