A while ago, I introduced a new series which at the time I was calling “the reverse crossover,” where I looked at songs from other genres that could work well in the hands of a southern gospel group/singer. After thinking about it, I decided to change the name of the series to “borrowing,” because it’s snappier and cleaner. Today I bring you a second installment.
After leaving the Gaither Vocal Band, Jonathan Pierce had a temporarily successful solo career in CCM. However, he eventually disappeared from the music scene to pursue interior design. It’s a pity he didn’t stick around and make more music, because he is one of the most gifted tenors I’ve ever heard. Wes Hampton today has been compared with Jonathan and comes close to matching his sound, though I think Jonathan’s timbre was a touch heavier.
I didn’t get into all of Jonathan’s solo stuff, but one song he recorded was a major standout. It’s called “Farther Than Your Grace Can Reach,” and it was played quite a bit on my local CCM station back when they were still playing good music. Written by Connie Harrington and Steve Siler, it is a powerful and now largely forgotten ballad that deserves to be revived. The song is quiet and piano-led, with convicting lyrics delivered in the first person by a man who is crying out to God for mercy. He knows that he is a sinner, knows that he doesn’t deserve God’s grace, and yet he also realizes that nothing he will ever do can place him beyond the reach of that grace:
No fault, no wrong, no dark of night
Can hide me from your eyes
And I cannot fall or climb
Farther than your grace can reach
Musically, the song takes a couple of surprising dynamic twists. For the bridge, the simple phrase “Rock of ages, cleft for me” is given an unexpected and soaring delivery before quickly returning to a moving final verse:
God bless us all, the weak and weary
Captives of our flesh and blood
Our only freedom is the refuge
Of your love
The final chorus is powerful, with a sudden key-change that makes for a superb climax. Jonathan’s magnificent range is on full display with this piece, and he uses absolutely no head tone. Listen:
I think this could work splendidly in a southern gospel setting. The question is, who should do it? My first thought was actually Riley Clark. Tribute Quartet could make it a Riley feature and do a fine job with it. Another thought was Wes Hampton, who would be a natural fit for the song given his similarity to Jonathan. (If Wes ever did another solo album, this would be a standout cut, for sure.)
But the one I finally settled on was Gus Gaches. Gus is one of the brightest tenor talents on the road today, and his voice would fit this song like a glove. Legacy Five should pick this one up and add it to their repertoire. I believe that if they did, it could become huge for them.
What do you think?