Some folks loooove the hymns. I don’t. I’ve always appreciated and enjoyed singing them in church, but I’ve never considered them very good for listening. Like, I’ll never put them on my iPod. Sure, they’re nice to sing while I’m wrangling my 2-year old in the pew, and even better when someone prepares a special musical number. But even then, they’re just a little too…I don’t know, serious? Righteous? Of course, I’ve never had any other expectation. I mean, we’re a bunch of God-worshipping lay-singers with “serious-face”, how else am I supposed to sing them?
And perhaps that’s why hearing this album by The Lower Lights was such a gleeful surprise. Hymns, but fun. And not so much They Might Be Giants fun, but more O Brother, Where Art Thou? fun. Vocally, instrumentally, the arrangements are almost all at least a couple taps better and more interesting than what I expected. The dynamic of the large ensemble group gives depth to the seemingly-simple melodies.
I love that the first song on the album, Ye Elders Of Israel, has a woman singing the lead. And it’s gorgeous. A hymn I’ve never had any opinion on, Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy suddenly moved up a dozen notches on my list of favorites. Their version of For the Beauty of the Earth has this stark beauty I love to go back to. And listening to This Little Light Of Mine you just know they’re actually having fun, smiling and laughing while they’re singing. The only song on the album that I don’t care for, and this is probably just me, is Count Your Blessings as it feels almost like a parody of the genre, rather than comfortably fitting in it like the rest of the album. But really, if that’s my only complaint, which it is, then the fact that I now listen to hymns on my iPod is high praise for this album.
1. Ye Elders Of Israel
2. Come, Ye Children Of The Lord
3. Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me
4. Secret Prayer
5. Count Your Blessings
6. If You Could Hie To Kolob
7. Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy
8. Israel, Israel God Is Calling
9. The Lord Is My Shepherd
10. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
11. We Thank Thee, Oh God, For A Prophet
12. For The Beauty Of The Earth
13. There Is A Green Hill Far Away
14. Sweet Hour Of Prayer
15. This Little Light Of Mine
Full disclosure: One member of the group is a long-lost friend of mine who moved away from Brooklyn a couple years ago. We used to go and see him perform his genius songs in various venues, so when I found out about this album I jumped (I literally hurled myself into the air) at the chance to listen to it. Sadly, I’m a lazy-A so it took me 3 months to write this review.