Prime Cuts: Feeling at Home, Through It All, His Hand in Mine
Overall Grade: 4/5
Ivan Parker's "Feels Like Home" feels like a Christmas album. The orchestra of stirring strings adorned these 11 songs with a glorious sound calling to mind those magical festive records. Moreover, Parker's sturdy and expressive vocals not only display warmth but color and vibrancy to these classic gospel tunes. Like many Christmas records which are filled with familiar old tunes, these 11 songs are cherry picked from the southern Gospel songbook that ought to ring bells of familiarity with connoisseurs of the genre. As a result, the whole record oozes with a warm and nostalgic ease making the listening experience particularly heartwarming.
Produced by Garry Jones (Canton Junction, Brian Free),"Feels Like Home" is a labor of love. This album was recorded in honour of Parker's own mother and it is a homage to Parker's own roots. The album opens with the gorgeous Bill and Gloria Gaither classic "Feeling at Home." Befitting of the tenure of the record, the song brims with an affecting sentimental warmth brought apart mainly by the delightful strings and the song's sublime melody. While Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me" has a jaunty and jagged edge, Parker's take is more rounded and easier on the ears. Then the swinging sounds of cabaret take over with the marvellous "I'll Have a New Song."
But the album dips a little with the ultra slow and laborious read of "I Just Came To Talk With You Lord." "Dig a Little Deeper," which doesn't get the "jazzier" treatment as some of the other cuts do, sounds a little out of place. Much better is the brassy Dallas Holm-penned "His Hand in Mine." The Beegie Adair-like piano frills and lush orchestration make this ode to the Lord's companionship even sweeter. Parker takes his time to deliver what is one of the most reflective interpretation of "I'm the Lamb." Meanwhile, Dottie Rambo's "The Holy Hills Of Heaven Call Me" gets a more country treatment which is okay without jumping out as exceptional.
The album closes with a couple of absolute winners. After all these years, Dallas Holm's "You And Me Jesus" is still one of the most catchy Gospel songs out there. Thanks to helmsman Garry Jones, the song greatly benefits from a fun jazzy country lilt that is quite addictive. Andraé Crouch gets a salute with Parker's take of "Through It All." Nuancing the song at a slightly accelerated pace, Parker certainly does the late icon proud. "Feels Like Home," like a good Christmas album, brings to the fore the sentiments of home, family and upbringing; and in this regard, this album is endearing. But more importantly, these songs (by and large) were carefully chosen to remind us that behind the sentiments lie the truth of God which still transforms our lives today.