New Music Reviews: September 2020 Releases

New Music Reviews: September 2020 Releases

Click HERE to listen all of these albums on YouTube Music.

The second solo album released by Oklahoma native Riley Harrison Clark is titled Oh How You Love. Clark sang tenor with Tribute Quartet from 2010 to 2019 and still fills in on occasion. He released his first solo album for Daywind Records in 2018.

“My Jesus I Love Thee” is a jazz-influenced take on the traditional hymn that kicks off Oh How You Love. Clark next showcases his upper register over a soulful track blending the traditional hymn “Nothing But The Blood” with Andraé Crouch’s classic “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power.” The soulful mood continues on covers of “Because Of Who You Are” (Vicki Yohe) and “Sweeter” (Lakewood Church).

The album’s title track is the only new song. “Oh How You Love” is a mid-tempo arrangement that mostly keeps Clark in a lower (for him) vocal range. “Today Is The Day” is a light-hearted cover of a song released in 2009 by Paul Baloche.

The next track is a mournful arrangement with a touch of Celtic influence combining the traditional hymns “Just As I Am” and “I Need Thee Every Hour.” “Rock Of Ages” is given a mid-tempo treatment. The album as it appears on streaming outlets concludes with an energetic version of “Joyful, Joyful.” The arrangement is practically begging for a Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir treatment. A few background vocalists give it their all, but don’t quite deliver the effect.

The CD version of Oh How You Love sold by Clark on his website adds a bonus track (“Mary Did You Know”). The CD was not made available to us, however, so this review is based strictly on the streaming version.

Aside from the title track, Oh How You Love draws from well-established material. Producer Tré Corley’s creative arrangements and Clark’s singing skills keep these familiar songs from sounding routine.

Producer: Tré Corley
Label: Daywind Records
Song Titles: My Jesus I Love Thee; Nothing But The Blood/The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power; Because Of Who You Are; Sweeter; Oh How You Love; Today Is The Day; Just As I Am/I Need Thee Every Hour; Rock Of Ages; Joyful Joyful; (some versions of this album add Mary Did You Know as a bonus track)
Release Date: September 4, 2020
Version Reviewed: YouTube Music
Rating: 4 Stars


My Gift is the first Christmas recording by country music superstar and three-time ACM Entertainer of the Year winner Carrie Underwood. The album features twelve tracks including three brand new songs. Look for Underwood to star with choir and orchestra in an upcoming television special based on this album during the upcoming Christmas season.

My Gift coincidentally begins with the same song that appears at the end of Riley Harrison Clark’s Oh How You Love (reviewed above). Underwood’s version strikes a distinct contrast with a subdued and reflective treatment of the familiar lyric and melody. That mood continues smoothly into the opening lines of “O Come All Ye Faithful,” but this second song builds as the arrangement progresses to the final verse. “Let There Be Peace” steps up the energy even more with a full modern pop production to enhance the timely lyric. What first appears to be a lyric video for “Let There Be Peace” on YouTube is instead a short video loop that repeats throughout the song.

Underwood trades lines and eventually sings harmony on “Little Drummer Boy” with her 5-year-old son Isaiah Fisher. Sentimental fans will love hearing him sing “wum-pa-pum pum.” Set over a subtle yet urgent rhythm bed, “Sweet Baby Jesus” is the album’s second new song. Underwood is joined by John Legend on the third and final original song “Hallelujah” which Legend also co-wrote. I fear the message in that particular lyric will be lost in the vocal acrobatics competition that ensues. It’s too bad they didn’t agree to a simpler approach.

“Oh Holy Night” has a stereotypical arrangement that starts at one on the volume knob and ends at eleven. Similarly, the remaining songs (“Mary, Did You Know,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Away In A Manger,” and “Silent Night”) offer few surprises. It’s like seeing a package under the tree from your grandmother and thinking, “That looks like socks.” When you open it you discover that, yes, she gave you socks again.

Thankfully, My Gift does deliver three brand new songs which is three more than many Christmas recordings like this have to offer. “Peace On Earth” is the best of those. Another positive takeaway is that eight of the nine classic Christmas songs plus all three of the originals convey a sacred message.

Producer: Greg Wells
Song Titles: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee; O Come All Ye Faithful; Let There Be Peace; Little Drummer Boy (featuring Isaiah Fisher); Sweet Baby Jesus; Hallelujah; O Holy Night; Mary, Did You Know?; Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas; Away In A Manger; Silent Night
Release Date: September 25, 2020
Version Reviewed: YouTube Music
Rating: 3 1/2 Stars


Guitarist Kevin Williams has traveled with the Gaither Vocal Band and Gaither’s Homecoming entourage for many years. The Gaither Collection features instrumental versions of songs from the the Bill & Gloria Gaither catalog.

Sadly, it’s rather boring.

In addition to the guitar, there’s piano and other instruments providing accompaniment through most of this album. The piano takes a pass at a melody line now and then.

There are no upbeat songs, though. Williams is obviously an accomplished and skilled guitar player, but he’s just phoning it in here. File The Gaither Collection under “music to sleep by.”

Song Titles: Because He Lives; The Longer I Serve Him; He Touched Me; Gentle Shepherd; Let’s Just Praise The Lord; I Am Loved; The Family Of God; There’s Something About That Name; I Believe, Help Thou My Unbelief; This Is The Time I Must Sing; I Will Serve Thee; Something Beautiful;. I Believe In A Hill Called Mount Calvary; The King Is Coming
Release Date: September 18, 2020
Version Reviewed: YouTube Music
Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Clark
4 out of 5
Underwood
3.5 out of 5
Williams
2.5 out of 5
Overall

Average rating of all three albums

3.33

Average
3.33 out of 5

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Category CD Reviews, 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 SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

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