Label: Horizon Records
Producer: Lauren Talley
Song Titles: I Believe (featuring Brian Free & Assurance); The Cradle, The Cross And The Crown; I Am Not Ashamed; I Hear A Song (featuring Gordon Mote); Everything (featuring Cindy Morgan); The God Who Never Changes; Our Song Will Be Jesus; The Blood Of Jesus Speaks For Me; Hallelujah, What A Savior; What Grace Is Mine (featuring Riley Harrison Clark)
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars
Another year has begun, and we have some brand new music to tell you about. Look for Lauren Talley’s The Gospel on retail shelves and online outlets Friday, February 10. (That date will always be special to me, because it happens to be my late mother’s birthday.)
Lauren wore several hats while bringing The Gospel to market. In addition to being the featured singer, she’s also the CD’s sole producer, the co-writer of four songs, and a background vocalist. Each song is a clear statement of faith reflecting the CD’s title, The Gospel.
There’s a musical familiarity here even though the majority of these songs are new. Lauren always knows just how far to push a song. She’ll throw in a colorful hook or go full force at an ending when a song calls for it. Those options are in her bag of vocal tricks, but she’ll also pull back just the right amount when an arrangement requires a more sensitive treatment. Some songs need one extreme from beginning to end. The remake of Dawn Thomas’ “I Am Not Ashamed” (originally popularized by Janet Paschal) allows Lauren to showcase her tasteful dynamic range from one extreme to the other.
The heart of The Gospel is a set of four songs positioned in the middle of the CD. These were all written by Lauren and co-writer Kenna T West with a third writer in each instance. Tony Wood helped craft “I Hear A Song” and “The God Who Never Changes;” Cindy Morgan Brower completed the writing team for “Everything” (and sang the duet part); and Lee Black assisted with the writing on “Our Song Will Be Jesus.” The two gems in this set are the rollicking fun “I Hear A Song” (duet with Gordon Mote) and the compelling, thought provoking “Everything” (duet with Cindy Morgan).
There’s a good range of musical variety on The Gospel in terms of song arrangements. Brian Free & Assurance provide background vocals for the edgy “I Believe.” The remake of Keith & Kristyn Getty’s “What Grace Is Mine” is backed by a creative string arrangement that somewhat distracts you from the fact that the melody is the familiar “Londonderry Aire” (AKA “Danny Boy,” AKA “He Looked Beyond My Faults”). Lauren’s vocals match up well with Tribute Quartet’s Riley Harrison Clark. I also enjoyed Lauren’s take on the classic hymn “Hallelujah, What A Savior.”
As I mentioned, the message of The Gospel is obvious and consistent in every song. I wish more artists would take a lyrical concept like this and stick with it for an entire CD. In terms of musical style, “The God Who Never Changes” is a pop-oriented departure that may feel a bit out of place stylistically. The other tracks all work well together with a good mix of tempos. Lauren displays once again why she is consistently ranked among our industry’s finest vocalists.
The Gospel is well-crafted, and for that reason, Lauren should be commended not only for her excellent singing, but also for her work as a producer. I even like the artwork’s excellent contrast of light and dark, and what appears to be just a random rectangle at first until you realize, hey, those are Lauren’s initials!