CD Review: Under Grace (Ivan Parker)

RATING: 4 Stars

Label: Horizon
Producer/Arranger: Roger Talley

Song Titles: “The Grace That I’m Under,” “I Am Whatever You Need,” “I Will Lead The Blind,” “Very First Thing,” “Love Called My Name,” “My Lord’s Been With Me,” “Miracle River,” “Every Knee Shall Bow,” “I’m Having One Of Those Days,” and “I’d Rather Have Jesus”

Under Grace kicks off with an electric guitar loop that settles into a light pop music blend with the occasional country guitar lick. Although I can’t recall him ever using a track quite like this before, Ivan Parker sounds right at home singing over the mix. Pulsating strings and piano arpeggios open the next track titled “I Am Whatever You Need.” The strings are a bit bombastic and too hot in the mix for my taste. Good lyrics by songwriter Terrry Wilkins, though. The pace slows down for the next cut, “I Will Lead The Blind,” a song written by Woody Wright that challenges the listener to reach out to those in need. Next up is an exciting country/blues blend titled “Very First Thing.” Parker gets deep in baritone territory at the beginning of each chorus to contrast his higher register in other sections of the song.

The next track on Under Grace is a relatively unoriginal ballad titled “Love Called My Name” that borrows too many phrases from other songs (“I love you this much,” “love beyond measure,” etc.). This is followed by an upbeat musician’s playground called “My Lord’s Been With Me.” Parker himself penned “Miracle River.” It starts off with the familiar descending bass guitar line from “Sixteen Tons.” My previous comment about “Love Called My Name” applies to “Every Knee Shall Bow.” Also, there’s a transition to the chorus of “I Bowed On My Knees” at the end of “Every Knee Shall Bow” that is awkward. The CD concludes with an upbeat track titled “I’m Having One Of Those Days” and a traditional version of the old hymn “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”

It’s great to see Ivan Parker taking musical risks with songs like “The Grace That I’m Under” and having fun on cuts like “I’m Having One Of Those Days.” The most notable inconsistencies are found in the song selection and the production. There’s not a problem with the quality of the music production when looking at individual songs. It’s just that the project as a whole lacks a clear musical direction. Songs could be described seperately as progressive, traditional, orchestrated, blues, country, or pop leaning. The CD comes across as a mixed bag with nothing stylistically tying all the songs together. On the positive side, there’s one consistently top notch element on Under Grace from beginning to end: Parker’s voice. If you’re attracted to the Ivan Parker as a singer more than anything else, you should be more than satisfied with Under Grace.

Category CD Reviews

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both and David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous
    Reply April 18, 15:07 #1 Anonymous

    I as a musician have gotten to the point, when I see that I am tracking for a Gospel (Southern) Artist, I think of the same guitatlicks that I have done on other projects. They are the same from the beginning to the end of the project. But when I got Ivan’s new project on my home desk, it blew me away. As a musician, I would have loved to play on it. Not one song was the same. As you put it, it was a musicians play ground. As a young musician and a young Christian, I was about to give up on Southern Gospel Music for the same reason most people my age are doing because the artist aren’t willing to go outside the box of styles but stay true to their beliefs and love of southern gospel. For me, I will be looking for more projects from Ivan, and I know they will be just as great if not even greater than this one. Thanks Ivan for going the extra mile for everyone who believes in you and loves you as an artist and the great person that you are.

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