CD Review: Kenny Bishop

RATING: 4 1/2 Stars

Label: Daywind Records
Producer: Woody Wright

Song Titles: “Lord, Have Mercy,” “Don’t Let Who You Are Keep You Away,” “More Than Amazing,” “God Is Looking At My Heart,” “Out Of Mercy’s Way,” “I Need You More Today,” “Under The Influence Of Mercy,” “I Can’t Believe What Grace Has Done For Me,” “The Prodigal’s Dad,” and “It’s Never Too Late”

I wanna know mercy,
So I’m gonna show mercy.
Help me do unto others as you’d have done unto me.
Lord have mercy.
(chorus from “Lord Have Mercy,” written by Sonya Isaacs and Becky Isaacs Bowman)

Acoustic instruments with just a touch of electric organ lay the bed for the joyous opening track on the new self-titled CD by Kenny Bishop. Titled “Lord Have Mercy,” the song sets a lyrical theme that will sustain the project. These ten songs are about grace, mercy, and redemption.

Don’t let who you are keep you away.
Don’t let who you think you are think you can’t be saved.
Who is the man or woman who has traveled beyond grace?
Don’t let who you are keep you away.
(chorus from “Don’t Let Who You Are Keep You Away,” written by Kenny Bishop)

“Don’t Let Who You Are Keep You Away” slows down the pace considerably with an original lyric by Bishop. Written by producer Woody Wright, “More Than Amazing” is in a similar reflective mood. Wright also wrote “God Is Looking At My Heart,” a tongue-in-cheek number with some quirky guitar picking that would make Chet Atkins smile. Another Wright song is “Under The Influence Of Mercy,” which deals with being too quick to judge when another person falls…until you fall yourself and need God’s mercy.

Additional writers contributing to Bishop’s new CD include Gerald Crabb (“Out Of Mercy’s Way”), Dawn Smoot (“I Need You More Today”), and Jeff Steele (“The Prodigal’s Dad”). Bishop co-wrote “I Can’t Believe What Grace Has Done For Me” with Adam Kohout and “It’s Never Too Late” with Caleb Collins. Of these, the most musically unique is “I Need You More Today,” which begins with a simple guitar for accompaniment before other instruments join in to fill out the sound. The song ends at three minutes, but then the solo guitar returns to pluck and the other instruments gradually join in again…a nice concept for production. In contrast, the Big Country® production approach to “I Can’t Believe What Grace Has Done For Me” would have been better suited to a more forceful singer than Bishop. It’s the least satisfying track on the CD. The piano intro to “The Prodigal’s Dad” reminded me of the intro to “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” first popularized by Larry Norman and later revived by dc Talk. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but that’s the first thought that popped into my head.

The CD ends with a soulful anthem called “It’s Never Too Late” that Bishop steps up and sings with conviction and feeling. I didn’t know he had it in him. He surprised me, to say the least. It’s as if Bishop said, “For my final number, I give you something completely different” and then proceeded to admirably do just that. Scatting background vocalists provide the finishing touch…I’d love to hear a re-mixed version with a full mass choir.

Bishop’s self-titled CD has impressed me. Given his sudden departure from the Southern Gospel music world in 2001, fans will likely scrutinize it heavily to see if it wallows in self pity or lashes out in anger, but I believe both of those extremes were successfully avoided. In a world where artists are frequently encouraged to reveal their deepest thoughts, there’s a bit of irony in the fact that this CD maintains its excellency by NOT getting too personal. Woody Wright is to be commended for striking a balance on the production; he includes arrangements that would appeal to fans of the Bishops while giving Kenny Bishop room to stretch as a vocalist at the same time.

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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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