Prime Cuts: "Like a Wideness in the Sea" (Anthony Skinner), "Yes I'll Sing" (Lynsey Berry), "I Know that My Redeemer Lives" (Don Koch)
Overall Grade: 5/5
This isn't a collection of old crusty hymns made with baby boomers in mind. Rather, what you will find in the first instalment of the "Simple Hymns" series are 10 newly written hymns and reimagined older hymns performed by some of today's best worship leaders such as Housefires' Pat Barrett, Sixpence None Richer's Leigh Nash, Dan Koch, Anthony Skinner, Aaron Keyes, and others. But the selling point is not that this is just another new hymns record but it is in the adjective "simple." Too often worship songs (hymns or otherwise) are written for big churches flooded by copious paid musicians with high musical proficiencies. And such worship music makes little concession for smaller churches with only a small handful of volunteers many of them are handicapped as far as musical execution is concerned. This is where this collection steps in. These songs are written with these smaller churches in mind.
So, how does this album service the worship of smaller churches? First, the songs are by no means lyrically derivative. Rather, these hymns are "simple" enough - bereft of complex chords and progressions- for most technically-deprived musician to grasp. As a result, many of these songs have more accessible hooks, case in point being Anthony Skinner's "Like a Wideness in the Sea." Sounding like a modern-day Joe Cocker, Anthony Skinner puts his voice to work on what is one of the most catchy tune about how the vastness of God's love. Absolutely gorgeous is the simple yet elegant "Yes I'll Sing" by Lynsey Berry. With just a piano as her backing, Berry's angelic vocals brightens as she unfolds the story of the Cross all the way from Calvary to Christ's second coming.
Second, these songs are "simple" in the sense that the backing is often minimalistic. This is particularly important in churches who find it a challenge to juggle musicians Sunday to Sunday. This record shows sometimes less is more. With just a simple strumming of guitar, Aaron Keyes shows that "Psalm 62" can come alive with such an affecting glow. Likewise, Don Koch's acoustic-guitar driven "I Know that My Redeemer Lives" shows that you don't need three keyboards and smoke on stage to command a worshipful presence. Rather, Koch shows that a Christ-focused song sung with a heart overwhelmed by Christ's love will suffice.
Third, these hymns are "simple" in the sense that they showcase how simple it is to breathe new life into old paeans. Though Brady Toops and Michal Mitha's "All to Jesus" is lyrically based on the hymn "I Surrender All," with just a twitch in the melody, the song immediately takes on a refreshing coat. Then same goes with Leigh Nash's "Blessed Redeemer." In fact, it's so refreshing to hear Nash moving away from her synth-driven 90s pop to engage in what's a very bluegrass sounding hymn with banjos to boot.
In short, this is a record made with smaller churches in mind, which is actually 90% of all North American churches. "Songs of Redemption" shows that just because a church is small, we have to compromise in our worship. These songs show that we can still worship with deep theological truth in ways that can be just as engaging and worshipful.
Tags : Various Artists “Simple Hymns: Songs of Redemption” Album Review Simple Hymns: Songs Of Redemption steve nicolle interview steve nicolle leigh nash lynsey perry pat barrett housefires Aaron Keyes don koch anthony skinner Brady Toops and Michal Mitha small churches small churches worship Hymns