Prime Cuts: Where the Bluegrass Grows, My Redeemer Is Faithful and True, Til the Blue (feat. Gary LeVox)
Overall Grade: 4.25/5
Even in his CCM pop prime, there's always a country streak in Steven Curtis Chapman. In fact, some of his earlier songs beg for country makeovers. How cool would it be, for instance, to have a Garth Brooks-esque take on Chapman's "The Great Adventure:" "Saddle up your horses/we've got a trail to blaze..." Thus, it's no surprise to see one of the most awarded CCM artist record a bluegrass album. Paying homage to his rural Kentucky roots, Deeper Roots: Where the Bluegrass Grows finds Chapman offering bluegrass renditions of some of his older songs, hymns, and a couple of new compositions. This record is also the debut Chapman album released on his own New Day distributed-SC See label.
Let's start with the new compositions: Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts joins Chapman on "'Til The Blue." Written by country scribes Lori McKenna and Barry Dean with Chapman, the song is a diary-like reflection of someone who has had been through suffering. Having lost his own daughter in an accident in 2008, "'Til the Blue" is more than just a song to Chapman. Rather, it's a healing balm for any hurting soul. The ultra-catchy title cut "Where the Bluegrass grows" is a chapter lifted up from Chapman's own biography where he details with perspecuity how bluegrass music was part of his upbringing.
As for Chapman's older songs: two songs are upgraded from his 1999 Speechless record. "Dive" is completely re-imagined into a bluegrass song, thanks in part to the help of Ricky Skaggs. "Be Still and Know," also originally from Speechless, is a tad on the boring side with its ultra-draggy melody. Fans of Chapman knows how much the song "Cinderella" means to Chapman. But after multiple reprisals, do we need yet another rendition of it? "My Redeemer is Faithful and True," a lesser known Chapman entry from his Deep Roots album, is a pure gem. Shaped with a hymnic structure, the song is so gorgeously crafted, one could easily have mistaken it as a classic written by Fanny Crosby or Charles Wesley.
The rest of the album contains tried and true hymns and Southern favourites. One would have wished for either brand new songs or bluegrass versions of some of Chapman's lesser known album cuts than over-done hymns. Nevertheless, it's heart warming to hear Chapman's own dad take the lead on "I'd Rather Have Jesus" and Chapman's daughter-in-law on "How Great Thou Art." To be able to record with his family must have had been something very endearing to Chapman. And after listening to this album, one also has to agree than though this record is not perfect, it's still precious, heartfelt and deeply personal.