CD Review: Simplified (Ball Brothers)
Rating: 3.5 stars (of 5)
Average Song Rating: 3.5 (of 5)
Producer: The Ball Brothers.
Song List: He’s a Personal Savior; Dig a Little Deeper; Near to the Heart of God; Where Could I Go But To the Lord; There is a River; I Never Shall Forget the Day; My Lord and I; Going Home; He Set Me Free; I Surrender All.
Artist Website: http://www.theballbrothers.com/.
Since starting their group in about 2005, the Ball Brothers have released three projects: A self-titled debut with new songs, an a capella release (Vocalized), and this project, Simplified. As the title suggests, this collection of classic Southern Gospel songs uses simple arrangements. In fact, there were only two studio musicians—Roy Webb on piano and Greg Hagan on bass and rhythm guitar.
Several slower-paced hymns on the project (“Near to the Heart of God,” “Going Home,” and “I Surrender All”) help to create a slow-paced, relaxing mood. The project also has several convention songs, with harmonies much tighter than a typical male quartet would sing, and one a capella song (“My Lord and I”).
The project’s standout track is “There is A River.” It’s not a fast-paced rendition (clocking in at over six minutes!), but the tempo is comparable to normal for the song. All four brother’s voices are similar enough that it can be rather hard to discern which brother has each solo. However, even in the three or four years the group has been on the road, lead singer Daniel Ball’s voice has matured noticeably, and I suspect it is his voice on this track. Though the rendition might not top Gerald Wolfe’s definitive version, it shows an incipient range and command that promises to make Ball one of Southern Gospel’s best lead singers.
This project showcases a different side of the group than previous recordings have brought out, a more traditional side. It also provides them with traditional numbers for concerts where the audiences seems to respond best to traditional selections. When I saw them a few weeks ago—reviewed here—they made ample use of this project’s songs, staging several of the numbers in their set.
This is not the sort of project that blows the listener away—but then, it wasn’t meant to be. It is more the sort of project that provides an enjoyable, relaxing listen. Sometimes, whether or not they realize it, every Southern Gospel fan wearies of over-compressed, highly produced music, and this is a perfect fit for such times.