Prime Cuts: Hosanna, Adopted, Resting Place
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
Over the years, Integrity Music has had not only championed for the worship of the church, but the imprint has had painted colors into the church's praises. Instead of just building up the musical repertoire of white churches, they have resourced Spanish and Chinese churches with new and invigorating tunes. Recently, in a venture with Tyscot Records, Integrity Music will be helping channel the songs of a host of African-American artists into the church's soundtracks. The first artist that has benefited from such a collaboration is Atlanta-based worship leader Casey J (Hobbs) .
In congruent with the imprint's culturally variegated vision, Casey J's "The Gathering" encompasses all musical styles from straight-ahead worship tunes ("The Gathering," "1,000 Hallelujahs") to explosive Gospel anthems ("Creation testifies") to banjo-led country (yes!) number ("Resting Place"). While some gospel singers have a harsh pulpit-pounding spieling vocal demeanor, Casey J has a soothing, yet affirming, voice that she uses to great emotive effect on one of album's highlights, the ballad "Adoption." Rendered with a motherly finesse, "Adoption" is a heart-warming treatise on how God calls us into his family. Then she takes us rocking showcasing her Gospel roots with "One Word" and "Creation Testifies." Nevertheless, these two songs fall into the trappings of many Gospel numbers, they are overtly too long and repetitive towards the final segments of the songs.
Much to the thrilling surprise of fans is Casey J's adventure into new musical terrains. The aforementioned "Resting Place" is so country that it would make Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line blush. Donned with great banjo licks, killer fiddling riffs, and Casey J's spirited delivery, "Resting Place" puts the fun back into worship. "Grace Wouldn't Leave Me" is a reworking of the lyrics of "Amazing Grave" set to a gorgeous Toby Keith twang. It may appear weird on paper, but the song actually is fetching.
Worship leaders looking for a Palm Sunday tune to add into their song set may want to give "Hosanna" a few spins. Narrating the events of the last week of Jesus with a three dimensional realism, "Hosanna" possesses a narrative depth often bereft in modern worship songs. "1,000 Hallelujahs" (made even more delightful with his Congo drumming) and "If God" (which segues into the hymn "Nothing but the Blood") also brim with potential as worship favourites.
In short, "The Gathering" is the type of album that congregates people of various musical tastes and cultures together. And even when Casey J ventures into unfamiliar genres, she does them wholeheartedly and with excellence. In this regard, "The Gathering" charters new ground with confidence, excellence and a worshipful heart towards God.