Measure of Grace is young family group The Taylors’ debut release on Ernie Haase and Wayne Haun’s label Stowtown Records. The fresh-faced foursome is continuing Stowtown’s recent trend of putting family groups on their roster. From left to right, they are Suzanne, Christopher, Leslie and Jonathan. Stylistically, they can evoke the Collingsworth Family, the Easters, or the Hoppers while still retaining their own identity. Now they’ve enlisted the talents of some of the best songwriters in the business (Haun, Lindsey, Jim & Melissa Brady and more) for an all-new collection of songs. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on this upcoming offering:
*Opening track “I’m Committed to You Lord” is a highlight right out of the gate from Wayne Haun and Jeff Bumgardner. Very classy but kind of kickin’ inspo in the vein of the Collingsworths’ “I Could Never Praise Him Enough.”
*Leslie Taylor is featured on highlight “I Tremble.” Wayne Haun and Joel Lindsey once again deliver a blissfully melodic, B-3 Hammond drizzled, richly theological meditation on worship and the cross. (And I just realized that I kind of made it sound like an ice cream sundae. Oh well, food analogies have always been my thing.) With the exception of one cringey line, which I’ve marched out and shot under “Dislikes,” this is the best song on the album.
Let me not forget this temple
It’s transformed into a throne room
And through your name, my soul is ushered in
So let me come to you in wonder
Let my heart still pound like thunder
At the way your grace has found me once again
*Speaking of Leslie, she’s the glue that holds the group together vocally. Her rich country tone compares favorably with Sheri Easter. Though as Jonathan proves on verse 2 of this live cover of “I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary” (minus Leslie in person, though her high harmonies are on the track), he’s not half bad-
*I was pleased to see them reviving the Sonya Isaacs-penned “He’s My Guide” from Ernie Haase & Signature Sound’s Get Away Jordan. Here it gets a bluegrass treatment that suits the young voices very well.
* Rachel McCutcheon’s new big ballad “The Cross is Calling” is another standout track. It’s one of the most Collingsworthish of the bunch stylistically, and it boasts some fine lyrics:
To every tribe and tongue
The ancient and the young
The welcome is for whosoever will
To all who will believe
To all who will receive
The grace that flows from old Golgotha’s hill…
*New convention songs are a rarity, but a good new convention song is a delight. Lyn Rowell and Amy Lewis have conspired to give the Taylors just that with “Heaven is Ready (And Waiting For Me).”
*Most of the songs are brand new. For a young group, that’s impressive and refreshing. As I just noted, even the most conventional of the songs is actually a new-old soundalike.
* “He Goes Before Me” has a decent chorus, but the verse melody is repetitive and scans awkwardly with the lyrics in a few places. (Example: “I am confident.”)
* The otherwise stand-out track “I Tremble” is marred only by this clunker couplet: “And I’m filled with such emotion/At your mercy and devotion.” No, no, no! Just say no! (Not that it’s “I’ll learn to see another’s point of view” level of awful, mind you, but still… wags finger at Wayne or Joel, whichever one decided that line was a good idea.)
* “That Will Be Heaven To Me” is a pretty heaven ballad, but the deliberate tempo and stock lyrics leave me unable to help comparing it to the Cathedrals’ much more vivid and effective “I Want To See Jesus” along the same lines.
* Suzanne and Christopher are great blenders who hold up their half of the group capably, but their individual step-outs lack the depth and trained oomph (does that phrase even make sense— “trained oomph?”) of their sibling counterparts. However, it may be unfair to compare Christopher to his brother, since Jonathan has nine years at the Steve Hurst School of Music under his belt.
Final thoughts: You may not be too familiar with this young group yet, but you will be soon! In terms of song selection alone, to be honest, they’re already on their way to beating the Collingsworths, even if they lack that family’s freakishly preternatural vocal polish. Enthusiastic, earnest, talented young performers like these assure me the future of southern gospel is in good hands. Pick up your own copy of this project from all the usual outlets on June 10, 2014. Here is a video of them performing the opening track live:
Here’s a set of preview clips for each track:
CD Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided. A positive review was not required.