Prime Cuts: I Will Love You, Ellsworth, Forever's End
The divine admonition to "sing a new song to the Lord" has presented writers of contemporary Christian music with a perennial challenge. To give fresh expressions yet remaining faithful to the seminal truths of Scripture is indeed not a simple fleet. On the whole, Jason Crabb's brand new solo effort does pass muster via the use of careful crafted narratives ("Ellsworth"), overturning common Christian clichés ("Walk on Water") and gorgeous melodies ("Forever's End" and "Through the Fire"). Part of the success comes because producers Norro Wilson (Reba McEntire, Kenny Chesney and Shania Twain) and Tommy Sims (Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton and Michael W. Smith) have not allowed the songs to be domesticated by genre. Enlisting the best writers of country music (Radney Foster, Bobby Pinson and Vicky McGehee), Christian music (Tony Wood and Scott Krippayne) and pop music (Randy Goodrum), these 12 songs are a delight to the ears and they make the heart flutter with worship and affection.
Pundits of ballads will have much to rejoice here: Crabb's bluesy expressive tenor is just the perfect vehicle to croon a big ballad. Testimonial to this is Crabb's gorgeous rendition of the Gaither Vocal Band's "Daystar." Crabb delves into his family vaults to resurrect "Through the Fire," a brooding slowie that exalts the tenacity of Jesus' love through our tough times. Such worshipful exaltations are worthy of a million hallelujahs. While "Sometimes I Cry," written by his dad Gerald Crabb, is an understated lament over the frailty of the human spirit. Crabb's understated delivery brims with an undeniable quiet passion. Swinging the pendulum in the other direction is "I Will Love You." Here Crabb is in the David Phelps territory: starting off slow before brewing into a full-blown anthem, it really shows what a great vocalist Crabb is.
Though a majority of the songs address our relationship with God, Crabb has not failed to address our horizontal interactions with each other. Righteous living is the theme of the propulsive country-rocker "Walk on Water." Written by notable Nashville scribes Trent Tomlinson, Bobby Pinson and Vicky McGehee, Crabb lets us know that what makes a man impressive is not his ability to walk on water. Rather, it's the way he walks on land. "Ellsworth," first recorded by Rascal Flatts, is a touching tale of an Alzheimer's affected grandmother who cannot remember why she parked her car on the highway. Yet she cannot forget what her hubby meant to her all those years ago. More heart warming moments come towards the end of the album with Randy Goodrum's "Forever's End"--a definite future wedding favorite.
Though the ballads are mostly exquisitely performed and deftly produced, they can get a little mushy towards the end of the album. While the production would not be foreign to what's being played at today's country radio out there, it would be good if one or two of the ballads were accompanied by a simpler acoustic-sounding backing. Nevertheless, this CD is a fine solo effort of Crabb since the retirement of the Crabb Family. And with a disc this good, he continues his family tradition with honors.