Prime Cuts: The Light of the Kerosene, She's Better Now, The Crown
There's a chasm that vastly divides between a good songwriter and an excellent one. A good songwriter often only hovers around the didactic, where his or her songs are merely filled with propositional truths about the subject matter he or she is espousing. While an excellent songwriter takes the same truths and situate them within stories and life contexts we can all identify with. This is the case with Allison Speer. Instead of just overwhelming us with the truth that heaven is a place far better place than our present world of sufferings and pain, Speer and her co-writer Joel Lindsey situate such a truth within the context of how God had spared Lindsey's mother of the years of suffering in the touching ballad "She's Better Now." The emotional connections they have established within the song are so deep that by the end of the song, Lindsey's mother is more than just a character to us.
Speer, for the uninitiated, grew up in the bluegrass fields of Kentucky. However, after attending a concert put up by the Imperials, Speer was won over to Christian music. Years later, she found herself sharing the stage with her idol Russ Taff. Her warm alto with the twinkle of rustic nostalgia is perfect especially when she gets to sing harmony. This is why Speer is a much sought after vocalist for the famous (and bestselling) Gaither Homecoming Videos and Tours. Over the years, Speer has also released her share of her own records. According to her website she has had at least 5 albums available. Apparently, besides just singing Southern Gospel, Speer even has some dabbling in comedy where she has had even released a live comedy album in 2013 entitled "Woo-Hoo, What a Ride."
"Writer" her latest recording finds her returning to Southern/country Gospel; and as the titular indicates this contains 12 of her co-writes. Many of which were written when Speer was at songwriters' retreats with fellow scribes. Out of such retreats, "The Crown" is easily the cream of the crop. Written by Speer with Christine Stearns and Ed Stivers, "The Crown" is a heart-tugging piano-driven reminder to all of us who are suffering that the Savior we follow is well-acquainted with pain evidenced by the thorny crown he wears. Another song that springs right out of the pages of life is "The Light of the Kerosene." A tribute to the obscure heroes of our lives, the song was inspired by a real story of a grandmother, who despite her blindness, taught her grandson to read the Bible by the light of the kerosene. After all the years of coming under the authority of God's word, the grandson finally gave his life to Christ.
Yet, not all the songs here are sad. Featuring a bluesy sounding organ with some Memphis country kicks is the celebratory "Loved and Lifted Up." While 'O to Be Home!" is an ingenious new co-write between Speer and Jeff Burngardner that uses the often forgotten hymn "On Jordan's Stormy Banks" as its musical backbone. "Writer," in many ways is more than just an album of songs. Rather, within each songs are snippets of real life stories of faith that not only have a way of engaging us emotionally but they have a way of allowing to witness how the promises of Scripture flourish within the complexities of life and living.
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