Saturday, December 5, 2009

Songs 4 Worship: Country Live - Various Artists

Country style adds reverence
Songs 4 Worship: Country Live
Various Artists
Label: Time Life (
Length: 15 tracks/71:49 minutes

Songs 4 Worship: Country Live follows Songs 4 Worship Country, a 2007 studio release that has been on Billboard’s Top Country album chart since its release. That recording features some of the same artists (and in some cases the same songs, except in this recording they are live) that you find here. Having the same song, even if performed by a different artist, is a bit of a drawback if you already have the studio recording. Another is the use of popular praise and worship songs that have become overly familiar to many. But before you write this recording off, know that these are just minor weaknesses to an album that is full of excellent performances.

Spotlighting some of the best praise and worship songs in a country light brings an added reverence that you don’t find on the pop versions. It’s like they are born anew to be the means of adoration for a new audience. The artists highlight the best aspects of already strong compositions, and some tracks are outside the standard fare.

What immediately comes to mind is “Revelation Song” by Susan Ashton. The press release accompanying this CD states that it has been at the top of the Christian radio charts for 13 weeks. Ashton was prominent in the Christian music scene before recording two country albums for Capitol, the second, for reasons unknown to her was never released. She has kept a low profile for several years, and I can only hope that we will hear more from her. This song is not only my favorite; it’s off the charts! I found myself caught-up with its great swelling tide of exaltation.

Another standout is “There is a Reason” by Alison Krause & Union Station. I like this one for different reasons. It does not address God directly. It is more of a thoughtful reflection on how difficulties bring us closer to God. It features some exquisite picking that includes a Dobro solo.

I enjoy the deep voices and harmonies of the Palmetto State Quartet on “Trading My Sorrows.” “How Can I Keep from Singing” by Lenny LeBlanc was a great choice for an opening song. It soars. Like Susan Ashton, this is another artist that seems to have crossed over to country music. LeBlanc is credited with songwriting on two other songs performed on this CD: “Above All” and “We All Bow Down.” The latter is performed movingly once again, as on the prior studio release, by Ricky Skaggs.

Collin Raye shows his versatility by performing the liveliest song, “Get Up in Jesus’ Name,” with gospel-like backing vocals, and then switching gears to perform the lovely “Indescribable,” written in part by Laura Story and made popular by Chris Tomlin.

Every performance is excellent. These songs were captured live at the historic Ryman Auditorium, with the exception of “Open the Eyes of my Heart” by Randy Travis, which comes from a previous recording. I think it’s wonderful that the Ryman, which originally was a church, became the venue for some of the brightest stars in country music casting their glory like crowns before the throne of God in humble adoration and worship. They do their best to recognize the holy and awesome Creator as the light that outshines all others.
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