T H E R E V I E W Z O N E
With grateful acknowledgement to: AUTHENTIC, ELEVATION, CAPITOL CMG, INTEGRITY, McCAIN, PROVIDENCE & VERITY MEDIA ORGANISATIONS.
JENNY PEGG : Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow. ()
Two years after her excellent debut, Sheffield’s Jenny Pegg is back with a 6 song EP that traces her journey with God. The first, two songs are superb. “Lift You High” is all about honouring God, and has a great singalong chorus. Meanwhie, “I Surrender” tells of being set free, and giving everything to the Lord. Musically, I thought that this song had everything, and I was soon tapping my feet to the rhythm. Jenny’s vocals are as strong as ever, and they rise majestically on “When I Fell Into the Night.” It’s a song about going through despair, learning to trust, and ultimate freedom. For anyone going through depression, it’s a moving and encouraging song. Musically, production is good throughout, but on “Kingdom of His Love” Jenny relies on just her piano to relate the truth that God’s love is for everyone – no-one is excluded. As her own journey has progressed, she had to take a “leap of faith,” and that the theme of the song of the same name. Taking that leap is the first step to your future. And, so we come to the title track of the EP. In my own walk, it’s taken some time to finally let go of things in my past that weighed me down. Therefore, I can relate to this final song wholeheartedly, as Jenny sings for you to look forward, and leave the past behind. Vocally, this is Jenny’s strongest delivery and you can tell that she believes that this truth is for all. After such a tremendous debut recording, I wondered if she could hit the same heights again. I shouldn’t have worried. God has blessed Jenny with the right words and the right music to result in a fabulous release. 10/10.
SOUTHERN RAISED : Another World. (Stow Town Records : STR3188
Southern Raised are committed to the Lord, each other and to bringing their music to the people. These words defines this phenomenal group of three sisters and a brother that are sweeping America with a sound that has been described as “ The Other Side of Amazing.” Banjos, fiddles and guitars provide much of the backdrop to the songs on this album, with Emily, Lindsay, Sarah, and Matthew Reith taking it in turns to provide vocals. When the girls sing, the sound is a cross between Alison Krauss and The Dixie Chicks. I’ve always been a sucker for some good banjo playing, and this album is filled with such expertise from Sarah. On “Up All Night” fiddles join in too, for a very tasty opening song. The tempo of the first song drops immediately with “Instead.” A nice number about being grateful for the blood of Jesus it is, perhaps, a little too early in the track listing for my liking. Andy Leftwicz provides a stunning fiddle solo on “Letting Go,” while Matthew Reith makes a rare lead vocal appearance on “Beautiful Moments in Time.” A very strange inclusion is a version of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. Completed with banjo, fiddles and guitars, the result is quite a messy sound that would have the writer turning in his grave. This album took a few listens to warm too, with “Wanna Be” improving with every play. It’s great to see more southern gospel being played in the UK and Southern Raised are a welcome addition. 7/10.
CHLOE REYNOLDS : I Am Brave. ()
Here’s Chloe’s follow up to her 2016 debut “Broken Beautiful.” Once more, Chloe’s piano is at the centre of this collection of songs, providing the perfect backdrop to her lovely vocals. She cites Alicia Keyes as one of her main influences, and that really sits well with her style of music. The song, “Quicksand” was an instant favourite of mine. If you’re sinking in the turmoil of what life has thrown at you, remember that Jesus promised you a lifeline to cling to. There’s a nice pace to “Alive.” It’s the feeling of freedom when you give your life to Christ, and become “Alive.” The title song is more of a ballad and I like Chloe’s vocals even more on the slower songs. Rob Townley’s succulent guitar playing is also worth a mention here. Like her previous album, I found that it took me a few listens to really enjoy the songs to their full potential. Once or twice, the stripped back acoustic tracks didn’t quite work for me, but the flowing melody of “It’s Time” was excellent. “Let’s Talk About It” has a the feel of a live recording, while the closing “Pass It On” is an infectious little ditty. Chloe’s not rested on her laurels in writing this new album and I think that she can be well pleased with the result, 8/10.
THIRD DAY : Revival. (Essential Records)
After following this band for more than 20 years, I thought I knew what to expect from a new release. How wrong could I be! According to the media, Third Day have “gone back to their roots” and deliver a collection of songs that, on the whole, sound like dated, gospel blues. The title track wasn’t too bad. It begins with some acoustic rhythms, before launching into a rock n’ roll, boogie-woogie number. Then, comes a couple of self-indulgent bluesy tracks that I took an instant dislike to. Where was the Third Day sound that I was used to? I thought things were changing with the great ballad “Let There Be Light.” Mac Powell’s vocals are spot on, and the song is so moving. Sadly, the brief highlight is soon forgotten. Indeed, I found “Gather Round Now” to be quite dreadful. The music sounds laboured and there was just no life to the song. I’m not sure why the band picked Paul Simon’s “Loves Me Like A Rock” to cover, but the overall production sounds like a live jam, rather than a serious recording. The album was recorded at the Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the same place that's welcomed everyone from Aretha Franklin and Etta James to Otis Redding, If this is the sound that Third Day are going to continue with, it will be interesting to see whether fans move with them. I, for one, couldn’t wait for this album to end. Very disappointing. 4/10.
THE LITTLE ROY & LIZZY SHOW : Going Home. (Stow Town Records : STR 3187)
Having roots in the heart of the south, Elizabeth Long, or Lizzy as her friends and fans know her was born on a farm in Lincolnton, Georgia. She began her music accomplishment at an early age. Little Roy has won awards as Entertainer as well as for his banjo playing. He has also been inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, This new album is a breath of fresh air, mixing southern and bluegrass gospel. If you like your banjo and fiddle playing, then you’ll love this release. Lizzy has a great vocal quality, and I was hooked, the minute she began singing the title track. I challenge anyone not to find themselves tapping their feet along to “Today Is Gonna Be a Brighter Day.” It’s a super song and well delivered. On the slower side, “That’s the Power of the Blood” tells that Jesus died for everyone, and that all can be saved. Little Roy’s banjo playing is exceptional, and it’s a real highlight of “In A Whirlwind” and “Feels Like Rain.” Late on in the track listing, listeners are treat to some nice slice guitar on the closing “Traveling On.” The music is bright and breezy throughout, and well worth a listen. 8/10.
IRON BELL MUSIC : God That Saves. (Essential)
From Louisville, Kentucky, come Iron Bell Music. The movement began in 2009 with a small home gathering, and now hosts many hundreds of worshippers in the Iron Bell Barn. If you’re expecting this album to be just another Hillsong or Planetshakers clone, then you would be sadly mistaken. Iron Bell’s mission is to "cultivate a heart of adoration." Songs on this album are quite intense, but full of easy to understand lyrics. The sleeve notes credit three people as lead vocalists, but fail to name the singer for each song. The opening vocals on “God That Saves” sound very gravely. It’s a pedestrian paced number that builds in power as it goes along. Production of these songs is huge. What I mean, is that, each song consist of a wall of sound that occasionally gets rather overbearing. Certainly, “Belong to You” and “Burn For You” fall into that category. However, that sound still sounded fresh, when compared to some worship albums. “Faithfulness” is a stirring song. “Great is your faithfulness, your goodness never changes.” Fabulous words of truth, encompassed into a great chorus. The pick of the album has to be “Sons and Daughters.” The song tells how much God loves us all as a Father, and it swings along majestically, in an anthemic sort of way. If this is a taste of what happens during Iron Bell Barn Worship, I can only begin to guess what attending a live event must be like! 9/10.