Hope For The Journey
Produced by Michael Sykes, Danny Riley
New Haven Records
Format: CD & Digital
Release Date: November 2, 2018
Format Reviewed: Spotify
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
SONG TITLES: I Can Tell You Why (Dianne Wilkinson) / Those Same Hands (Dianne Wilkinson/Rebecca J. Peck) / Someday (Dianne Wilkinson) / Same God (Kenna West/Lee Black/Tony Wood) / I Will Not Be Shaken (Jason Cox/Kenna West) / Alabama Mud (Belinda Smith/Jason Cox/Tim Lovelace) / Jesus Frees the Fallen (Dianne Wilkinson/Lee Black) / A Bible Loving Man (Don McCrossan/Robert Fleming) / All My Hope (David Crowder/Ed Cash) / Resting Place (Gene Pistilli/Michael Puryear/Rob Johnson)
There have been at least two major vocal lineups that have designated themselves as “definitive” in Gold City’s nearly 40-year history, but in recent years, it’s been a bit of a struggle for the group to find an identity. After the departures of Mark Trammell, Jay Parrack, and Jonathan Wilburn, all within a relatively short time, the group has notoriously struggled with stability. With Hope For The Journey, we get the first mainline release from the group since 2011’s Somebody’s Coming, and the first time since 2003 that the same vocal lineup has appeared on consecutive recordings.
The album kicks off wit “I Can Tell You Why,” a throwback to the group’s late 90’s era with lots of horns and alternating leads between tenor Thomas Nalley and lead Scott Brand. It’s more of a proper introduction for these two, especially Brand, as last year’s Treasures of Gold only included three new songs, none of which featured Brand.
Speaking of Brand, he gets several features on this album, including the moving ballad, “Same God,” and the laid-back “Someday,” which was originally slated for 2008’s Moment of Truth prior to Jonathan Wilburn’s departure (Wilburn’s version was later posted on YouTube). It’s not a bad song, but I question why they would recycle the same track that’s already been made public for several years.
Danny Riley gets the most features on the album, including “I Will Not Be Shaken,” a nice uptempo number that would make a good choice for a single from the album, and “Jesus Frees The Fallen,” a story ballad full of emotion. Nalley gets an uptemo number with “Alabama Mud,” an fun driving country style describing old-fashioned baptism, while Chris West gets to show off his bass vocals on the bouncy “A Bible Loving Man.”
The first single (and the stand-out track) is a cover of David Crowder’s “All My Hope.” The track was released in advance of the album on download and streaming platforms, and I’ll admit I’ve played this single quite a few times before the album’s release. It’s that good. West’s upper register adds a new dynamic to the group that they fully exploit here, and I believe it’s a good starting point for this particular lineup to set themselves apart from past iterations (and struggles) of previous members.
Working once again with Michael Sykes, the production quality is top-notch. In a time when recordings are mastered to be as loud (and tuned) as possible, this album is a breath of fresh air, giving listeners an even mix and natural vocals that don’t sound overly edited.
While the quality of the album is at the same level that would be expected of any Gold City album, I think it suffers a bit from pacing. This could be solved a bit by re-ordering the songs a bit to avoid having too many slower songs back-to-back; there are only two really up-tempo numbers on the entire project, and they are put together in the middle of the album.
Rather than setting out to make a game-changing album, Gold City has stuck mostly with tried-and-true, with a few surprises thrown in. It’s not a landmark album necessarily, but it’s a solid album, and hopefully a sign of things to come from this lineup.