CD Review: Thank You Lord by Great Adventure Gospel Band

The southern gospel world was first introduced to the Garms family through this video of their youngest child, Caleb, with Legacy Five. 7-year-old Caleb stole the show with his easy charm and stage presence, making a couple members of the group uneasy about being able to keep their jobs in the long run (particularly Glen Dustin, when it was revealed that Caleb aspires to be a bass!)

Some time later, the entire Garms family became contributors to southerngospelblog.com, and their posts have become regular high points. When I discovered they were a traveling gospel band, I checked out the sneak peek of their debut album and was delighted at what I heard. They graciously provided a review copy at my request, and today I bring you my thoughts on this fresh project from the Great Adventure Gospel Band.

The CD was independently produced with technical mastering and mixing handled by Ben (age 20), the acknowledged techno-whiz of the family. Ben also provided all the guitar work (acoustic and electric), as well as some banjo and electric bass. Vocalists include Mom (Kris) and Dad (David), Ben, Taylor (age 19), Leesha (age 16), Sam (age 11), Jayme (age 9), and of course Caleb (age 7). Mandolin is provided by Taylor (with some contributions from Uli, another sister who doesn’t tour with the band), dobro by Leesha, piano by Kris and Taylor, violin by Jayme and Taylor, harmonica by David, and percussion by David and Sam. A few songs are completely handled by the female trio of Kris, Taylor, and Leesha, while others are completely handled by the trio of “Little Adventurers” (Sam, Jayme and Caleb).

The style ranges from straight-up southern gospel to bluegrass to folk. Here are some highlights:

“Leaning On the Everlasting Arms”: This features the female trio, who offer a very refreshing vocal blend and put a few twists on this familiar hymn. Leesha sings lead and sounds mature for her sixteen years, Taylor sings high harmony, and Kris sings alto. Ben provides some exceptionally smooth bass support as well. Perhaps this is a good indication of what Caleb will sound like in fifteen years or so!

“Wonderful Time Up There”: This is a father/son duet between David and Ben with backup from “the girls.” David sings the lead, but Ben really steals the show as we get to see his bass singing in full action on the familiar classic. He’s probably the family’s most polished singer at the moment. Kris also shines on piano. Really fun stuff, and it’s almost over too soon.

“Were You There”: Everybody shines on this folk-flavored arrangement of the dramatic spiritual. Ben’s haunting acoustic guitar provides the backbone for the instrumentation, but 9-year-old Jayme also plays an impressive, Celtic-sounding lead violin, with Taylor playing harmony violin. The little ones sing the first verse very movingly, Taylor sings a poignant solo on verse two, the female trio handles verse three, and the whole family sings the triumphant final verse. One minor quibble: My understanding is that the final verse changes the “it causes me to tremble” line to “I feel like shouting glory.” Here, it’s “tremble” all the way through.

We’re treated to some extra violin interplay as the arrangement closes. This cut is a major standout for sure. Great harmonies and production.

“Poor Wayfaring Stranger”: This is the most pure folk cut on the whole album, sung by the female trio. Their vocals here have that raw, hard-to-describe feeling that’s characteristic to folk music. It’s like something from the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack—unpolished, untouched, and appealing for precisely that reason. Definitely not a southern gospel sound, so it might have to grow a little on those who are unused to folk/bluegrass. But I think it fits the mood of the song perfectly. There’s an extra bit to the arrangement at the end which sounds pretty cool, with some ethereal effects added to the ladies’ voices. However, the sudden New Age feel does seem to clash musically with the earthiness of the rest of the arrangement. It’s a neat sound, just a slightly odd genre shift.

“Beautiful/Beautiful Savior Medley”: The female trio sings the first song in the medley, alternating between unison and harmony. Harmonizing with each other seems to bring out the best in their voices, and they do some of their best singing on this cut. The family resemblance among their voices is very strong. Then “Beautiful Savior” is sung by the whole family in simple, lovely acapella to finish the disc.

Also worth mentioning is that one song on here was written by a little adventurer! Jayme Garms is apparently a budding songwriter as well as singer/musician, and she wrote “I Need You Lord” when she was only seven. The song might not seem particularly remarkable by itself, but when the age of the author is taken into consideration, it’s rather impressive. A very simple, jangly folk tune, it follows a lyrical progression obviously inspired by Pilgrim’s Progress, as the singer asks for help to remove his burden, is told to go to the cross, and finds it taken off there. It will be interesting to watch as Jayme’s writing talents continue to mature. Other songs include “Lord I Want to Thank You,” “Bigger Than Any Mountain” (sung by the Little Adventurers), “He’s Still Working On Me” (ditto, and a great one to play for little kids), and “Power In the Blood.”

Southern gospel fans will definitely find much to enjoy in the song selection, even though some of the songs and arrangements sound more bluegrass/folk than gospel. It’s also worth checking out for its impressive production values. Even though it was mixed in a home studio, this does not sound like a cheap, shoestring project. And of course, fans of family harmony will be charmed by the range of ages represented here. Even the younger kids already have a striking grasp of harmony and blend. Their youthful contributions make this project especially appropriate for families with small children. But it truly is a CD for all ages. Definitely recommended. Hear clips and buy it here.

Advertisements

We WILL Stand Our Ground

Last night I was searching for an appropriate song to post today in light of the recent terrible news to come out of New York. And thanks to Miss Dianne Wilkinson and the Kingdom Heirs, I have the perfect one. May the words of this song stiffen your spine, lift your head, and remind you that there is still something to fight for… and a remnant to fight for it with you.

Christian Doctrine and Music: How are They Connected?

Hat tip to Daniel Mount (and David Bruce Murray in a subsequent comment), for inspiring this post. Daniel put up a post asking for reader feedback on whether differences among Christian denominations can influence the way a Christian song lyric is crafted. DBM commented that he’d love to see how the discussion would proceed along a slightly different line: Do denominational differences influence stylistic differences in music? So I’ve decided to take it up here on southerngospelyankee.

My immediate reaction was “Yes, of course!” Many denominations are defined by their different musical styles. Black gospel is naturally associated with charismatics, southern gospel with Southern Baptists, and contemporary P & W with mainstream evangelicals. Even among Protestant hymns, there is a huge difference between an Anglican hymn and your average Charles Wesley/Fanny Crosby (I know, having sung many of both kinds). In our family we have made a joke out of “those Anglican tunes” that are so counter-intuitive and clunkily put together that you can barely even find your way through them. Even though in all fairness there were some great Anglican writers, let’s just say that Anglican hymnody as a whole is not known for its natural, singable melodies. (We also have a joke that Anglicans can’t sing.)

So denominational differences can certainly be tied to stylistic variations in music. That much is obvious. But I think the question may have been slightly different: Do doctrinal differences have a direct causal effect on how music is written? This question is less obvious to answer. It is one thing to say that a black gospel sound is part of the charismatic tradition, or that a southern gospel sound is part of the Southern Baptist tradition. It’s another thing to say that a writer’s theological beliefs will affect the music he writes (as distinguished from the lyrics he writes). We can find plenty of examples of correlation, but what about causation?

The first thing to come to mind is that musical style  can certainly be affected in cases where denominational principles rule out certain forms of music. So if a writer comes from a background where anything with a rock sound is considered to be evil, you will never catch him writing something with “an edge.” There are musical groups who follow that principle and consequently record within very restricted musical boundaries. Some even believe that there’s evil in the back-beat.

But at the same time, I see people and churches who have wildly different music, yet essentially the same doctrinal foundation. For example, Sovereign Grace Ministries produces music with a very contemporary, wall-of-sound feel, but at the same time they are passionate about writing meaningful, biblically correct lyrics, and one of their ballads was even picked up by the Booth Brothers. As another example, I recently watched some footage from Church On the Move in Oklahoma, and I couldn’t stand most of their music they were playing. Yet their pastor’s preaching is rock solid, with a southern accent you could cut with a knife. He seems like he’d be equally at home at the little brown church in the vale. Among artists, there are obviously many Southern Baptists in southern gospel, but there are plenty in CCM too. As one example, Christian rock group Casting Crowns has worked closely with Georgia’s Sherwood Baptist Church, who made Facing the Giants and Fireproof. However, to say that their music isn’t exactly southern gospel would be putting it mildly, even though doctrinally there may not be much to separate them from Signature Sound. And for our part, we have southern gospel artists meeting CCM halfway with a “progressive” sound, some of whom even take inspiration from secular music. (Odds are you’re more likely to catch Ernie Haase listening to Michael Buble than the Inspirations.)

On the other side of the coin, I’ve seen people with different denominational backgrounds working together and making music that all sounds very similar. For example, Paul Baloche and Matt Maher are Catholic singer/songwriters, but their worship songs have been recorded and sung world-wide, and they have worked with countless Protestant worship leaders and writers.

And to top it off, there are quite a few songwriters with cuts in both CCM and southern gospel. Perhaps the most remarkable example I’ve found is Tony Wood, who can literally write anything. He’s had cuts by everybody from Petra to ZOEgirl to Scott Krippayne to 4Him to the Booth Brothers. He’s worked with well-known CCM writers  and well-known southern gospel writers like Joel Lindsey and Jim Brady. Sometimes I wonder whether Christian music has ever fully realized how much it owes to Tony when I look at the sheer number of classic songs with his name on them. But in any case, whatever his denominational affiliation, it hasn’t stopped him from being versatile as all get-out. And he’s only one example. I could name others.

My conclusion is that ultimately, the place where doctrinal differences are most often going to manifest themselves is in the lyric. In general, there’s no similarly causal relationship between theology and musical style. It’s just going to be one giant mixed bag of sounds.

Coming of the King: I’m ready!

On this, the one-month anniversary of “Camping’s flop,” I felt it would be appropriate to reflect on the Second Coming and have some gospel music fun at the same time. I first got hooked on the song “Coming of the King” when I listened to Beyond the Ashes’ cover of it on their latest project. Then I went and found the original Brian Free & Assurance version of it and got even more hooked, if it was possible at that point. Written by the dynamic duo of Wayne Haun and Joel Lindsey, it somehow manages to feel both old and new. I present both versions for your enjoyment. Which do you like better?

BTA:

BFA:

I think they’re both great fun to listen to and watch, although BFA’s live band ups the watching experience a couple extra notches! One thing I really like about Beyond the Ashes’ cover is that they have a big sound for a trio. When I discussed quartets versus trios a while back, I was talking about how often a trio will adapt a quartet song to the fact that they can’t create as big a sound as a quartet. But these guys can blow the roof off with just their three voices. They go straight for the jugular of a song. At the same time, they throw in a lot of soulful little improvs and slides and things. The lead singer reminds me a lot of Marshall Hall. I think the “soul sound” sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, but it works here.

Having said all that, Brian Free and the guys clearly have the better version. They are simply unbeatable. Even aside from the great bass work and the extra full sound, Bill Shivers’ D5 (?) on that bridge makes this version definitive all by itself. Seriously, dude… awesome! On a side note, I can’t resist pointing out the moment around 2:43 when the guys are huddling and Brian stands on his tiptoes. Love it.

Book review: Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller

“The living God, who revealed himself both at Mount Sinai and on the Cross, is the only Lord who, if you find him, can truly fulfill you, and, if you fail him, can truly forgive you.” — Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods

This is a first for southerngospelyankee: a book review! I don’t intend to do very many of these, but since someone recommended this particular book to me recently, I thought I would check it out and share my thoughts.

In our world today, there are many things striving to draw our attention away from God. Sometimes they are obvious, sometimes subtle. And often, they are things which may not intrinsically be wrong, but if perverted, they become idols. In this brief book, Tim Keller walks his readers through the various shapes and forms an idol can take in our world today while combining his observations with stories from Scripture. Chapter titles like “Love is Not All You Need” and “The Seduction of Success” make it clear that Keller is prepared to challenge common assumptions of pop culture.

Some of the illustrations Keller chooses for his various points include the story of Zacchaeus (money), the story of Naaman (success and prestige), and the story of Nebuchadnezzar (power). In a number of cases, these work very well. The re-telling of Naaman’s story is particularly well done, as is the closing account of Jacob’s wrestling match with God. However, there are other cases where he strains too hard for the application and ignores surrounding context. One example is the story of Jacob and Leah. Keller looks at the passage where Leah hopes to gain Jacob’s love by bearing sons and concludes that her desire to be loved was an “idol” she let go of only after having Judah. He contrasts her statements after bearing each son before Judah, which all involve her husband in some way, with the statement for Judah: “This time I will praise the Lord.” He concludes that this means God worked a change in Leah’s heart, resulting in a “breakthrough” for her. While that makes a nice, tidy illustration for Keller’s purposes, it is unfortunately not accurate.

For one thing, Keller is either missing or ignoring the fact that the entire passage is a series of word plays on the names of Leah’s sons. One son is named Reuben, which means “see, a son” (as in “Look! I have a son…see?”), when Leah greets his birth by saying, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery.” When Simeon is born, Leah declares, “Because the Lord hath heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” “Simeon” means “hearing.” It goes on and on. When you get to Judah and realize that “Judah” means “praise and thanks,” suddenly it doesn’t stand out so much anymore. But the real killer is that Leah wasn’t “reformed” after having Judah at all. She and Rachael continued to compete with each other, sometimes in very strange and even bizarre ways. Also, Keller misinterprets the part where it says Leah stopped having children to mean that she never had any more, when it’s actually only a temporary pause. She had three more children later.

Keller tends to fare better when he remains in the present time, offering stories from his personal life experience and soberly commenting on the decadence of our surrounding culture. He is spot on with many of the things he says in this context. I found the section where he discusses the idol of success particularly insightful. He observes that many stars crave success because it gives them a feeling of self-worth. But because God alone can fill that void, they find themselves continuously feeling empty, and the cycle starts all over again as they keep pushing for more success to fill themselves up again.

The influence of C. S. Lewis is apparent throughout as Keller quotes generously from Lewis’s writings to support his own points. Keller himself is no Lewis, but Lewis has obviously had a very healthy effect on him, and it gives the book added substance. Keller also makes good use of familiar stories like The Lord of the Rings and Chariots of Fire. I had never really considered the fact that Harold Abrahams is making an idol of his running, but that is exactly what it is. Keller quotes from a scene I had forgotten where Abrahams’ girlfriend asks, “You love running?” and he responds wryly, “I’m more of an addict.” Abrahams runs to prove himself and satisfy his own desire for success. Keller could have gone on to discuss that Eric Liddell provides the natural contrast to this attitude by running for God, but he uses only the Abrahams illustration.

Unfortunately, Keller does make a false step when he tries to talk about “political idols” in the section on power. He takes a good general point (that ideologies can take on the form of an idol as easily as things like money and pleasure), and then tries to imply that conservatives are no different from liberals. With the tone of a chiding parent who tells the children that “they’re really both to blame,” Keller makes vague, relativistic generalizations that no discerning observer of the current political landscape could take seriously. He solemnly warns each side not to “demonize” the other, because it’s not good to view our opponents as “evil.” As a fairly reliable supporter of the pro-life and pro-marriage causes, Keller himself ought to know better. There is indeed much evil in the left, and there are evil people representing it, including our own President. That may not sound comfortable and diplomatic, but the truth is rarely comfortable and diplomatic. Meanwhile, Keller is only nudging the Church in a direction it’s already been taking for years, to its own detriment.

This combined with the book’s various instances of exegetical carelessness is enough to keep it from a perfect score, but  on the whole, it contains enough good, solid insight that I’ll give it 3.5 stars. It’s well-written, accessible to the average reader and capable of generating good conversations about this important topic, one which is too often overlooked in the Church. However, for those who haven’t already read it, I would recommend Lewis’s The Great Divorce as a more imaginative and profound look at the same subject. And I have a feeling Tim Keller probably would too.

Lost Nuggets: “Beneath This Armor” by Gold City

[Apologies to Wes Burke for blatantly ripping off his “hidden gems” series. Sorry Wes… but it’s just such a good idea I had to get a piece of the pie!]

Somebody has posted Gold City’s entire Pillars of Faith concert video to Youtube in five parts. A thousand blessings on his head, because that most excellent video has sadly been long OOP. [Update: I’m wrong! Thanks to Steven and Brandon for informing me that this video has been made available as part of a box set here.] Recently I had the chance to sit down and enjoy the concert piece by piece. It was all excellent, but there was one song in particular that really moved me in a way it hadn’t before.

I first heard the song “Beneath This Armor” on Brian Free & Assurance’s At Your Request project of Gold City covers. At the time, I thought it was nice, but it didn’t really stick and struck me as less well composed than Twila Paris’s very similar classic “Warrior is a Child” (which could easily be covered by someone in SG, by the way). Some time passed until I found Brian’s live performance of the song from Pillars of Faith. When he began setting it up, I was deeply affected by what he had to say about putting our trust in human beings who can fail, something I coincidentally had just been writing about myself. The concert was taped in 1992, just after the Michael English and Sandi Patty scandals had broken. Brian refers to them without mentioning their names and talks about the great tragedy of all the people who were let down as a result of their heroes’ fall. [My goof. I didn’t make sure of the dates and just assumed those were the scandals he was referring to because they were so well known. Perhaps he had somebody like Marsha Stevens in mind.] But from there he moves to point out that the human race as a whole is frail and broken, and the mere fact that he stands behind a microphone doesn’t render him any less susceptible to temptation than the people in his audience.

When I realized he was setting up “Beneath This Armor,” I decided to give it another shot. I found myself nearly on the verge of tears by the time the song was over. “Warrior Is a Child” is definitely catchier and flows better, especially the music. But lyrically, “Beneath This Armor” digs more deeply into the same theme. The chorus alone is remarkable. And Brian sings it all with such incredible poignancy that I hang on every word. I think you hear a real maturity in his voice on this song. Watch the video. It includes the setup and the song, as well as the number they did right after it. (I couldn’t find a video with just “Beneath This Armor,” so forgive the extra song. It’s a fun toe-tapper, but it kind of ruins the mood, so I recommend just stopping the vid at that point.)

Sing it Again: “Lord of the Harvest”

Major blast from the 80s past alert! This classic Imperials song first came out in 1982. I’m embedding a live performance of it from a couple years later. Future GVB tenor Jim Murray takes the lead. I grew up on this guy’s voice, so it’s always held a special place in my heart. It’s so smooth and clear that I never grew tired of listening to it. I still haven’t:

Whoa, is that Dick Tunney with a mullet on keys??  Never mind, move along…

Nothing to be said except this song is an absolute gem. Soaring melody, thought-provoking lyrics. Somebody in southern gospel could easily record it. I think Ernie Haase & Signature Sound would be a great candidate, but I had a different idea too. Jaron Faulknor of Voices Won has always reminded me of Jim Murray. With him singing lead, the trio could do a very tight, smooth version of this song, perhaps with a more stripped-down feel. The bass part would be missed, but I think they would still be able to capture that classic feel. Thoughts?

When the World Looks at Southern Gospel Music…

…what do they see?

Once, out of curiosity, I decided to have a bit of fun with my classical pianist/composer/music snob and musician extraordinaire uncle. Because I know he can’t stand southern gospel, I tried to put myself in his shoes and come up with a way of describing the genre that he would consider accurate. So I said, “It seems like from your perspective, there are three basic categories in southern gospel: the trite, upbeat ditties, the schmaltzy treacle-fests, and the overblown big ballads. Am I right?” He wrote back and said, “Well…okay, you’ve got me.”

It was a humorous moment, but I’ve been thinking about to what extent that’s an over-exaggeration and to what extent there may be a grain of truth to it. On one hand, there are definitely good southern gospel songs that couldn’t fairly be categorized in any of those categories. (In fact, it might be fun some time to see how many we could come up with that wouldn’t even begin to fit.) But on the other hand, I think a lot of it comes down to how much a listener is willing to put up with, and in what area. Are you the type of person who can’t bear to hear any song that’s just light and upbeat, or can you relax enough to enjoy that sort of thing? Do you have zero tolerance for schmaltz, or can you allow yourself to get into the schmaltz spirit to a point? Do you have the patience to listen while a big ballad takes its time to unfold, or do you find yourself wishing they would just pitch the ball?

There are levels to this, of course. Every person is different. You can even observe differences within the community of southern gospel artists themselves. I remember an interview with Brian Free where he was talking about the song “If it Takes a Valley” and said, “Every now and then you’ll come across a fast song that says something. This song says something.” Michael Booth has stated that he plans to eliminate as much fluff as possible from the Booth Brothers’ future repertoire. But not every artist places as much weight on that sort of thing.

Within my family, Dad is less extreme than my uncle (his brother), but as you may recall, he has some of the same reactions. I’ve heard him say, “Southern gospel just doesn’t do ballads very well. Yeah, it’s catchy, it has a beat, but ballads? Not so much.” But then when he hears slower fare, even some pretty hefty slower fare, he’ll say it takes too long to get going. So lyrical content is obviously only part of the story. His taste has always leaned more towards a CCM style. But naturally there are tradeoffs. For example, I have found that even very good CCM doesn’t always stick in your head from a musical perspective. Still, my dad would go for a rather repetitious melody coupled with deep lyrics before he’d go for light lyrics with a great melody. And the sooner it gets down to business, the better.

By contrast, my mom demands that a melody be easy to remember and is willing to put up with some sentimentality if the music sticks in her head. It’s not that she doesn’t appreciate substance, she’s just more easy-going where Dad gets impatient. She also doesn’t mind a slow-burning ballad as long there’s a strong melody holding it all together. Needless to say, she’s taken to southern gospel like a duck to water. But because my dad’s threshold for that type of thing is lower, I have to pick and choose a bit to find southern gospel he can believe in. (Of course, I’m more Pandora than Pandora when it comes to picking music for people, so I haven’t had a whole lot of trouble there either. ;-))

The truth is that one man’s trite ditty is another man’s rousing barn-burner, and one man’s overblown big ballad is another man’s powerful anthem. Unless we’re dealing with a level of cheese that couldn’t be denied by anybody with a well-developed ear for lyrics or music, this sort of thing is largely subjective. There may even be times when both sides have a point. I can look at a song like “He Touched Me” and say, “Schmaltzy? Yeah.” Then I turn around and say, “But by golly, when you get a really great male quartet or two in there to sing the socks off of it, I’m shouting glory along with everybody else.”

Such is the nature of southern gospel. There’s precious little room for a middle ground between “love” and “hate.”

Perfect Tenor Performances #2: Danny Funderburk

Today we continue to look at some o f southern gospel’s best-known tenors and enjoy snapshots of them at their live best. I started the series with Brian Free, and today I’m featuring another tenor who is somewhat controversial but has garnered much critical acclaim (as well as a massive fan following!) Though his voice is something of an acquired taste, Danny Funderburk certainly left an indelible mark on the world of southern gospel during his time with the Cathedrals. He was famous for raising the roof with power-house numbers like “I Just Started Living” and “Somebody Touched Me,” but I much prefer him when he doesn’t push his voice to the breaking point and instead allows a quiet ballad to speak for itself. Case in point, the classic “For What Earthly Reason.” It’s the tender moments like this that allowed Danny’s full brilliance to shine forth, not only as a vocalist but as a communicator of a lyric.

Truly a shining moment in southern gospel history.

Behind the Song… with Lyn Rowell and Wendy Wills: “Jesus is Holding My Hand”

When I “reviewed” Doug Anderson’s solo album, I said that “Jesus is Holding My Hand” was easily the best song on the project. I said that even after hearing clips of all the other tracks, and I put in a later note saying that I still maintained that position after listening to the CD in its entirety. Fortunately, somebody out there agrees with me and decided to single the song. It’s enjoyed chart success and become a staple of Signature Sound concerts as Doug takes it around the country and the world.

I asked the writers if they would be willing to let me and my readers into the process of how the song came to be, then came to be recorded. They graciously agreed.

***

Me: What was your initial inspiration for the song?

Wendy Wills: I came to a chapter of a Bible study I was doing that focused on Psalm 23.  I was thinking about how the Shepherd Lord is with us in both valley and pastures, and “Jesus Is Holding My Hand” popped into my head.  I remember thinking what a nice little song idea that could be, simple and hopeful, certainly true.  I do remember specifically thinking of starting from the green pastures and still waters, because that’s where I was spiritually – I was experiencing no trials or tribulations at that time.  I also was thinking that it’s these peaceful times that God wants us to recall when we’re going through the hard times because he has shown us his faithfulness.

In my mind was a picture of the mountains I hiked around when I lived in western China.  Deep, cool valleys nestled in between forbidding mountains.  But, oh, the view from the top!  That is truly a mountaintop blessing!  Life is a chain of mountains and valleys and Jesus is with us in both places, leading us to the place where he restores us, and helping us climb through trials.

Lyn Rowell: Wendy and I had a writing appointment at BMI in Nashville, and she said she had an idea — a lyrical hook with a melodic idea, so she played and sang “Jesus is holding my hand.” I immediately liked it, and we started talking about what it meant to us personally. I told her I had been realizing that both mountains and valleys can be encouraging or discouraging, based on the specifics of the circumstances and exactly where we are at the time. A valley can be restful and inviting when there are green pastures, but when the valley turns dark, the main goal is to move through it as quickly as possible! Similarly, if we stand at the base of a mountain looking up, it can be imposing and challenging. But once we’ve reached the top of the mountain, it becomes a place of victory and peace. So those different perspectives were the inspiration for the verses in the song for me, but the one idea holding it all together was that “Jesus is holding my hand,” no matter what happens.

Me:  How did lyrics and music come together? Did one of you write music and the other lyrics, or were both a joint effort?

WW: I came to the appointment with a melodic and lyrical hook.  But after that, it was definitely a collaborative effort.

LR: Since Wendy had the initial melodic hook on the guitar, she took the lead musically. It did take more than one writing appointment, but the music and lyrics came together at the same time as we worked through what we wanted to say.

Me: How did Doug come to record it?

WW: Lyn was more involved in that process.

LR: Ray “Chip” Davis did a great demo for us, and we began to pitch the song. Then in June of 2010, Wayne Haun (who was producing the project with Ernie Haase) texted me to ask if “Jesus Is Holding My Hand” had been cut yet. I texted back that it hadn’t been and asked why. He said they were listening for Doug Anderson’s solo CD and loved the song.

Me: Did you expect it to find the kind of success that it’s had?

LR: I was surprised, but excited to hear that it would be the first radio single from Doug’s project. When they first put the song on hold, they said it had the classic sound they were hoping to find, so that may be one reason why it’s been so well-received in live concerts all over the US and in other countries they’ve visited recently. Doug’s YouTube videos show that he always makes that song a rich moment during the Ernie Haase & Signature Sound concerts. He has the perfect voice to bring the song to life, and he communicates the message beautifully.

WW:  I really had no idea what to expect!  Lyn really kept me in the loop. It went from:  “Wayne loves it,” to “He played it for Doug,” to “Doug loves it,” to “It’s going to be the first single!”  I saw Doug sing it live at his CD release concert in his hometown of Lapel, IN, in April.  He was awesome.  People were singing along . . . it was a sweet moment.

***

Thank you ladies so much! This is a great song, and I’m just pleased as punch that it’s getting such good exposure. When you put two gifted writers in the same room, good things are bound to happen.