Prime Cuts: God is Good, Right Here, Majesty
Over the last few years, StowTown Records have been the encyclopaedia of Southern Gospel musical tradition. Whether it is the reviving of the stacked up harmonies of the grand sounds of traditional Gospel music (a la The Perrys and the Browns) or the showbiz-esque bliss of kicking Gospel cuts (a la Eernie Haase and Signature Sound) or the elegant soar of powerhouses (a la TaRanda Greene & Doug Anderson), you can find entries of all shades and nuances of Southern Gospel music in their ever-expanding oeuvre. This year, this boutique label has expanded its borders again. With the signing of Jody McBrayer and Charles Billingsley, StowTown is making its inroads into contemporary Christian pop and worship music respectively. "Right Here," unlike the majority of StowTown releases, is a pop worship effort that finds Seth Mosley (TobyMac, Newsboys), Mike "X" O'Connor (for KING & COUNTRY, Matthew West); and Keith Everette Smith (Karyn Williams) at the helm.
Launching his career more than two decades ago fronting CCM group NewSong, Billingsley has since headlined more than 3,000 concerts, released 24 recordings as a solo artist and garnered seven #1 Inspirational radio hits. Also a sought-after worship leader who oversees the music ministry at Lynchburg, Virginia's 24,000- member Thomas Road Baptist Church, Charles is an artist-in-residence and instructor at the nation's largest Christian college, Liberty University, and he regularly appears at such popular events as Women of Joy, Dr. David Jeremiah's "Stand Up Tour," Gridiron Men's Conference and Celebrators Conference, among numerous others.
The beauty of "Right Here" lies in its ballads. The lead single, "God is Good" is a heart-posturing piece that is bound to be a lifesaver for those of us wallowing in the supercilious throes of sufferings and despair. With a vulnerability expressed through Billingsley's expressive tenor coupled with a song's attention paid to the palatable details of our sufferings, you feel like Billingsley is singing right to you as he croons this gorgeous ballad. The title cut "Right Here" has an unplugged vibe and it's also the album's most intimate cut. Such a warm setting definitely enhances the song's message of stopping in the midst of our hurts and realize that our Healer is right here. Doing more massage to the heart is Billingsley's duet with Meredith Andrews "See You Again." While Andrews lacks the verve in most parts of her latest release, she redeems herself with flying colors here.
Being a seasoned worship leader, one is not surprise when Billingsley revisits Delirious?' "Majesty." He also does a rousing rendition of "Hallelujah for the Saviour" which has an old school Hillsong feel. Fans of NewSong and Sanctus Real will adore the popish "Jesus You Are" which has lots of cascading percussion beats. With its soaring chorus and lyrics that bear a hymn-like depth, "Victory (The Blood of Jesus)" is tailored made for congregational worship. Worship leaders may do well to include "Victory (The Blood of the Savior)" into their song set especially with Easter in the near horizon. Billingsley has a way of bringing us into the presence of Christ in ways that are inviting and assuring. Such a quality is itself worth the price of this CD.