Prime Cuts: Mercy Come In, Wherever You Are, Stained Glass
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
There's such an adrenaline gush of passion bursting through this new record that you think the Martins are about to jump out of the speakers. Not only do they own every note they sing, they sing with such believability and conviction that you need to have a heart of stone not to be arrested by these songs. "Still Standing" is indeed a labor of love for this southern Gospel trio. Their first release since 2014's "A Cappella," the Martins are back; and they are back with a driving verve. Part of such success needs to be attributed to producer and piano player par excellence Gordon Mote. Mote, indeed puts in the extra kick, to get the Martins to sing their very best.
Comprising of siblings Joyce, Jonathan and Judy, the Martins have been enjoying national and international successes since the 1990s. Much of their early successes is indebted to Bill Gaither who took the young trio under his wings and made them a part of his then ground breaking Homecoming videos and concert series. "Still Standing," which boasts 11 newly recorded tunes, continues the progressive country-pop direction they have had been championing for a long time.
Album opener "Running" finds the Martins on turbo-charged as they harken us to run to arms of the Saviour in times when "sin comes knocking." Less bombastic and a tad more rustic in the song's cadence is "Beautiful;" a gorgeous worship piece where Joyce Martin sings with gratitude how God brings beauty out of ashes. "Good" (which features Jonathan Martin on lead vocals) checks all the right boxes as far as a radio hit is concerned. Upbeat, engaging, catchy, and deeply God-saturated, "Good" lives up to its titular.
The ballads, which the Martins excel, are in a shorter supply this time. "Mercy Comes In," co-written by Laura Story, Travis Cottrell, and David Moffitt, is a much anticipated ballad. Sensitive in its execution, thoughtfully structured in its layout, and heart-wrenching in its lyrical artistry, "Mercy Comes In" is easily a high point of the record. The Martins have also offered an updated version of their signature tune "Wherever You Are," giving those of us who are younger a chance to enjoy this well-crafted ballad many years later. Rounding off in this tripartite of sublime ballads is the subdued folky "Stained Glass." Comparing our sinful (and imperfect) lives as stained glass, Jonathan really drives home the point with a down-home clarity.
Joyce Martin gives exposition to the genesis of her passion in "Lotta Life." Listen carefully to this song and you will unlock the secret of how to persevere through life in faith. More than its entertainment value, this is a must-hear for those of us who are serious about Jesus. With lots of teaching moments, lots of reflective pauses, and plenty of toe-tapping singalong junctures, this record is indeed a lodestar for the trio. And when they sing each note with such affection, you can't help but be drawn in.