Friday, July 10, 2009

Gospel Road: An Album Review

As Brian Houston’s new album, Gospel Road, opens, I am immediately snapping my fingers and feeling that I must know this song, if only I could remember it. Maybe it’s the Elvisy piano, maybe it’s the oo! oooooohs and deep voiced backing vocals, I don’t know.

I know that the first track, “Glory Glory,” starts out with this simple early Cash-like guitar and then has, what I think of as, this Elvisy piano thing. I could be totally wrong about those two associations but that’s where I go. It definitely makes me want to shimmy and shake, which feels a little shocking given that the lyrics are all about God.

Maybe that’s the cute dichotomy of the song and, in fact, of most of the album; the lyrics are straight out of old time Sunday School but the music is from the dance hall on the Saturday night before. Not that I’m old enough to actually have attended a sock hop, I’m just sayin’. I might have thought I was listening to the soundtrack to The Sand Lot or Stand By Me, which is a compliment since those 2 are set to great music.

The theme of the album is reflected in the opening line.

“Well tonight I feel like God’s favorite/I’m laying down in his arms…”

God’s favorite? OK, can God have a favorite? Apparently he can and, guess what, we’re it. There is a tremendously sweet innocence that goes with resting in God’s arms, assured that you’re his favorite. It’s at once very childish and very mature because it’s foolishly true.

Later this same song says that God is…

“Smilin’ down on me/and all my sins have been forgiven/all my past wiped clean/ oh I, I will lay my burden down.”

It’s this comforting knowledge that allows a person to rest in the feeling of “favorite”. All has been set right. No need to carry a burden. And he loves us. No wonder the overall vibe of the album is unapologetically happy.

The charm of the album is unquestionably this: simple truths set to good music. But let’s not confuse simple with small. Security in God’s accepting love and His ability to see us through the challenges of life are BIG truths. It’s just that they’re put simply on Gospel Road. Whether Houston is talking about love that heals or confidence in the face of these troubled times, his lyrics are not complicated but they are rich.

And, as I said, the music is finger snapping and hip shaking good. Listening to Gospel Road reminds me of watching a film directed by either Ron Howard or Robert Redford, both of whom place high value on a good story told well, by which they mean GOOD ENTERTAINMENT. How the album took me to those associations, I can’t say, except that it’s just that kind of music. It's fun. Yet the truths Houston is crooning about do much more than simply entertain.

The Gospel Road is something entirely different and yet pleasingly familiar. For me, it was a welcome change and a comforting old friend. I love that there is joy and faith and confidence and humility all set to some kind of when-my-dad-was-in-high-school dance music, or church music, or some collision of the two.

You can find it HERE

PS Personal fav: “Sweet Jesus.” This perfectly tender little lullaby of a beauty tells of a heart healed. I’d recommend the album for this one alone. Lucky you that you’ll get 10 other nice ones along with it.

(My review can't be very technically clever. I'm not that smart. The best I can do it talk about how an album makes me feel and what it is I like about it. But then, that's what's important to me :-)


sue said...

Thanks, Lisa, I was just getting up to put some good music on...

Carolyn said...

Actually, Lisa, as I was reading this, I wasn't sure if it was written by a music critic, or you, until I got to the end. Your gift of writing is clearly evident here. Thanks for being willing to share what matters to you and for being willing to use the gift you have for the benefit of many.

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