Prime Cuts: Before the Throne of God Above, Standing in the Need of Prayer, Blessed Assurance
Overall Grade: 2.5/5
It's a treat when an artist were to drop a hymns album or a worship covers record once in a blue moon. Alan Jackson has recently done that and his serendipitous effort has been handsomely rewarded as "Precious Memories Collection" spent countless weeks on Billboard's Christian Album chart at #1. Such efforts often allow fans to appreciate a refreshing spiritual side of the artist while the singer gets a recess from being pushed to release a new original album prematurely. But Guy Penrod has made a career of alternating between cover albums of hymns, modern worship songs and Christmas carols. Every album this former Gaither Vocal Band's former lead singer has had done fall into one of these three categories.
"Blessed Assurance" is part of this cycle as Penrod again revisits 11 hymns done in his inimitable country style. There's nothing wrong with a hymns album except that this is Penrod's third one with each released only a couple of years apart. Does Guy Penrod seriously want to make his career out of merely singing hymns and songs associated with other acts? Doesn't he want to own a repertoire of his own and leave a mark in the music industry? Does he really want to be relegated as a covers artist or to put it more crassly, a professional karaoke singer?
The set itself is a joy to listen to. Penrod doesn't try to reinvent the hymns or does he augment them with new verses or choruses. Rather, he sings them straight without much ad libs or other musical flourishes. With his booming tenor that expresses both sincerity and conviction, Penrod is particularly convincing on the anthemic "I Will Sing of My Redeemer and "There is Power in the Blood." Adorned with a delightful country backing that recalls the neo-traditionalists of the 90s, his rendition of the title cut "Blessed Assurance" is a joy to listen to. And he does take a tiny step of faith by stepping out of the familiar corpus in tackling the bluesy bass-heavy "Standing in the Need of Prayer."
However, by keeping his backings safely kept within the bounds of country music and without much creative input into the songs, one wonders if Penrod will win any new fans? Sure, Penrod's fans who are steeped in Southern Gospel music will no doubt sweep up copies of this CD by the truckload, but will this album win new converts? Shouldn't he be thinking of relating to the younger Millennials and at least try to speak their musical language?