Once upon a time, hymn writers and singers were more interested in expressing a genuine faith and spreading the gospel than they were in making a fast buck off of Jesus. They wrote for God instead of for their target demographic. This outstanding album, which I've owned and listened to for about 15 years, reflects the sacred nature of that music as opposed to the profane meanderings of today's "Christian artists." The songs are simple, relying upon the beauty of the human voice singing in harmony and, occaisionally, a few well-chosen and artfully arranged musical instruments. Above all, they are beautiful melodies well sung.
As others have noted, this album relies upon our mostly unknown heritage of Northern hymns from the nineteenth century. There is none of what I think of as shaped note, or "Sacred Harp," singing, and I say that as an enthusiastic participant in that tradition. These hymns are folk hymns, to be sure, but they were written by the musically literate to be played and sung, or at least conducted, by the musically literate. The hymns are well chosen and logically sequenced--from the nativity through Christian education, through struggles and doubts, through death, and, finally, through our eventual reunion with Christ in the Heavenly City. The hymns are gorgeous. All are outstanding; a few, such as "O Come, Come Away," "Gently, Lord, Gently Lead Us," and "Burst Ye Emerald Gates," are simply hair raising. Incomprehensibly, however, one or two of the songs are secular in nature and just do not fit in with the album's theme. Even they are well sung.
This album may very well deepen your faith. At the very least, it will leave you awe-struck at the musical inspiration of 19th Century Northern hymn writers as well as at the technical and inspired proficiency of the always-great Boston Camerata.