Prime Cuts: That Wonderful Someone, I Love His Name,
Overall Grade: 5/5
Johnny Minick & the Stewart Brothers' debut album for Gaither Music is an important record. These are songs that put the adjective "western" back into music. These songs resurrect a music genre that was once a vital fabric of American music. Back in the 1940s right into the 60s, western or cowboy music was a piece of American culture and history. Singing songs that give animations to the Old West where the open ranges or cattle drives have been romanticized, western music was a genre that gives perspective to a way of life that was reality to many in rural America. However, with country music's penchant for the synths, guitars, and strings utilized by its musical pop cousin, slowly the adjective "western" has been erased from country music.
Not only did western music disappeared from country music, it's almost unheard of in Christian music these days. Thus, in this regard, Johnny Minick & the Stewart Brothers' album feeds a very important lacuna. Johnny Minick together with Lonnie and Phil Stewarts have taken 10 hymns and Southern Gospel favorites and they have given each of them a western flavouring. Most ambitious is the medley "I am Bound for the Promised Land/Sweet Beulah Land" which sounds like it's a musical clip from a big scale Western movie. Featuring a full Western swinging orchestra, the guys musically transpose us into a John Wayne set where you can almost smell the dirt being kicked up the horses' hooves.
Less bombastic but still aided by those gorgeous lush-sounding strings is "I Love His Name." Here Minick puts his sturdy baritone to great effect as he brings out a sense of beauty that truly enhances that of our Lord's. The album features the boys tackling two of Stuart Hamblen's classics. "Until Then," which has been famously been associated with the late Ray Price, is a theologically rich piece that teaches us that blessed hope in Jesus is the real answer to the hurts we have had experienced in this life. The boys give Hamblen's "It's No Secret What God Can Do" such an infectious read with their three-layered harmonies that you want to have the song on repeat.
One of the heuristic joys of listening to a western record is that the utilization of the songs' rhythm section bring out emotions in sharper proportions. The delightful use of bells and other rustic instruments on "That Wonderful Someone" and "Just a Closer Walk with You" bring out an intimacy with the Savior that is a comfort for the soul. By inundating "This Little Light of Mine" with a Riders in the Sky Western jazz overhaul you can't help but feel the joy of witnessing for Jesus. At the end of the day, this record is not only well executed and thoughtful made, but it's a vital addition to Christian music.