Prime Cuts: One Thing I Know, Jesus Passed by, Be Brave
Overall Grade: 5/5
To paraphrase one of the titles of the songs on this record, there is "one thing the McKameys know" about making records. They know how to choose great songs. Never relying on hype or trends or theatrics, they know how to choose songs packed with punches without the augmented clutter. Thus, the McKameys have such longevity that many of their peers could only dream about. "Be Brave" is the Southern Gospel team's 52nd album and they show no sense of losing their grip on excellence. After all these years, you have got to tip your hat to their keening ears for sublime melodies and their innate sense of rhyme and phrasing. All of these are true of "Be Brave."
For the McKameys, it all started way back in 1954 in the home of a Christian minister where three of his daughters decided to sing in church one Sunday. Dora, Peg and Carol McKamey not only caused a stir in their home church, but soon they were attracting the attention of out of town evangelists. They began singing at revivals which really got the ball rolling. Despite several configurations in the group's makeup over the years, the McKameys became a tour de force in Southern Gospel music over last six decades.
Again produced by Roger Fortner and Jeff Collins, "Be Brave" bears all the typical imprints of a McKameys' record. Sheryl Farris, who usually pens a big bulk of the songs, gets to single handedly scribe 6 out of the 10 cuts. Having a resident writer certainly gives the McKameys a leg up as you don't get to hear the same Southern Gospel staples being recycled for the umpteenth time. Farris showcases her songwriting mettle with the testimonial "One Thing I Know." Rifle with lots of personal anecdotes, "One Thing I Know" has an intimate ring to it making its message of Christ's abiding presence sound even more penetrating. Bringing us right into the Biblical account of how Jesus healed a blind man, you can feel yourself being a character in the story with "Jesus Passed By."
"For the Record," a manifesto of their allegiance to Christ, finds the family group returning to their country roots with some delightful banjo interjections. Sandy Blythe of the Blythe Family who has recently penned the Taylors' towering "To Worship You Again" offers her composition "Come Forth as Gold." Though not Blythe's best effort, but it is still a relaxing and flowing country waltz. For those who want to boost to our faith, take a listen to the gorgeous title cut "Be Brave." Though a new Farris composition, "On and On" sounds like a Southern Gospel classic, the type that the Cathedrals or the Perrys would covet on first listen.
Frankly, there's not much to complain about when it comes to this album. Melodic songs with carefully crafted words anchor this album. And when you have such a firm foundation of stellar songs, you don't really need much of a grandiose infrastructure of sonic beeps and beats to impress.