Prime Cuts: Magnify Him, Awesome Power of Prayer, Your Ways are Higher than Mine
Overall Grade: 5/5
If you only have money to purchase one Southern Gospel music album this year, get this one. The excellence of the Collingsworth Family (CWF)'s brand new StowTown records release Mercy and Love is storied. On one level, the sound is elegant, visceral, majestic and down right heavenly. Produced by industry veterans Wayne Haun (Celine Dion, Jason Crabb) and David Clydesdale (Aretha Franklin, Sandi Patty), these songs were recorded in Prague with the city's Philharmonic orchestra. On another level, the songs are thoughtfully selected. Here you won't find over-recycled fluff or hymns that have appeared on every other quartet's canon. Rather, with a balanced of well-chosen covers and carefully crafted new tunes, there's not a dud in the offering. Yet, on another level, the members of CWF are vocally in tip top condition. Giving exposition to affairs of sublime theological truths, this sextet demonstrate confidence and believability.
CWF consists of Phil and Kim together with four of their children. Phil and Kim Collingsworth started in the music ministry when they were musicians at a church camp in Petersburg in August of 1986. Over the years, they have started music presentations for church camps and extended-length revival campaigns. They have also held the positions of Ministers of Music, and Directors of the Music Division at Union Bible College, Westfield, IN. Phil was Dean of Enrolment Management at his Alma Mater, God's Bible School & College, Cincinnati, OH.
Mercy & Love is CWF's first album since 2015's That Day is Coming. The intervening three years have indeed been worth the wait. Safe to say, the ballads are all first class material. And the cream of the crop is Kirk Talley's "Magnify Him." A straight-forward call to worship, the song gets bonus points from CWF's seamless harmonies and the song's hypnotic melody. Aiming straight for the heart is Rachel McCutcheon's new composition "Your Way is Higher than Mine." Preparing for yourself some Kleenex as Courtney reminds us of our need to rest in Jesus even in the most difficult paths. In the similar lyrical ballpark are soul-piercing "Bring it Broken" and the uplifting "God Still Delivers."
Rachel McCutcheon shows us again, this time as the co-writer with Marcia Henry on the catchy "Awesome Power of Prayer." Though Dottie Rambo's "For What Earthly Reason" has been a choice cover amongst Southern Gospel acts, there's a tenderness to CWF's rendition that makes it extra endearing. Then you have those celestial pieces where the team's layered harmonies are so gorgeous, you can't help but feel heaven singing. Case in point is "Casting Our Crowns Before Him/Worthy is the Lamb" may clock in at 7:21 minutes, but it is so engaging that you don't even realised it is that long. Also, quite heavenly is the hymn-like "The Lamb." Choir directors may do well to include this excellent piece in their portfolio.
Over the course of CWF's tenure at StowTown records, they have never produced anything that is lacklustre. Mercy & Love doesn't disappoint either. Solid songs, power-packed harmonies and those charismatic string sounds courtesy of the Prague Harmonic choir, make this CD a smashing effort.