Monday, March 17, 2008

How Great Thou Art: Gospel Favorites Live from the Grand Ole Opry

Classic songs and hymns done in a traditional country style

How Great Thou Art: Gospel Favorites Live from the Grand Ole Opry
Artist: Various
Label: RCA Records
Length: 12 tracks/46:51 minutes

Unlike another recent country release to the Christian market, this has a strong country flavor. Fiddles and pedal steel guitar, and vocals that clearly reflect a country drawl, are heard throughout.

This collection of hymns and gospel songs are mostly unadorned and performed in a straightforward manner. The simplicity puts the highlight on the vocals and melodies. With the exception of "I’ll Fly Away" performed by Charlie Daniels and Mac Powell, which is almost frentic, the songs are mostly mellow and deliberate. It helps one to truly focus on the words rather than being distracted by the music.

The lesser known songs like "House of Gold," "Family Bible," and "Where No one Stands Alone" are a little more interesting due to their being less common. On the other hand, the sparse music and the reverential tone on well-known songs like "Blessed Assurance" by Alan Jackson and "The Old Rugged Cross" by Brad Paisley are endearing.

These are all live performances that have been spliced together. There’s no indication that these performances took place at the same time, though that could be the case. You often hear the artist’s name announced and fans respond with polite applause before and after each track.

There’s not much innovation. The artists don’t try to be contemporary, but I found that refreshing. I also liked the shortness of some of the songs. It’s a welcome change from repetitive praise and worship songs that sometimes feel too long. It’s pleasant to hear performances like these that are just right in length, and soothing to the ears.

One must be a country music fan to fully appreciate this. However, if you can acclimate yourself to country, and are not tired of hearing some familiar songs, you may enjoy this. The different setting provides an opportunity to experience these classics anew.
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