CD Review: “It’s So God” (Brian Free and Assurance)

It's So God - Brian Free & AssuranceLet me start this review off with a confession. I’ve had this project for a few months, but I didn’t post a review until now. Why the delay?

Quite frankly, the first few times I listened to the project, I honestly didn’t like it. And since I follow my grandfather’s maxim “If you don’t have something good to say about someone, then don’t say anything,” I simply put off posting a review indefinitely.

But over time, this project has grown on me. While I still prefer Live in New York City and Greater Still projects, I have finally concluded that this project is on par with those projects. So it’s time to post a review.

The project has several big ballads, which probably is the style of song with which Brian Free & Assurance are most closely identified. While numerous BF&A fans point to “Under Cross Examination” as the best new ballad on the CD, I tend to prefer the current radio single, “It’s All About the Blood.” The latter song is a tenor feature in the vein of the group’s all-time biggest song, “For God So Loved.”
In all likelihood, the song “Long as I Got King Jesus” (from Live in New York City) was intended to be a novelty song for the group, to help them relate to their live urban audience. But instead it became a career song, a #1 hit for the group, and sparked what may be an ongoing change in the group’s style. This album has several songs influenced to varying degrees by black Gospel. Most notable among these are “Coming of the King,” featuring lead singer Bill Shivers, and “Jesus Will Pick You Up,” featuring bass singer Keith Plott. The latter, as David Bruce Murray observed, is a remake of a Williams Sisters song from the 1990s. [EDIT, 11/6/10: Regrettably, the link seems to be broken, so it has been removed.]

The group did not stop with mixing white and black Gospel influences; they added a Celtic feel to “If it Takes a Valley,” their previous radio single.

With this album, Brian Free & Assurance push the boundaries of what defines Southern Gospel. Yet they do it in a way that does not abandon their roots as a traditional Southern Gospel quartet.


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3 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I have several of BF&A’s projects and this one rates as one of my favorites. I agree with you about “It’s All About the Blood”, but I really like Under Cross Examination, too. I think this is a very confident and competent group and they are not intimidated by trying new styles. I really have enjoyed the mixture on this CD.

  2. Brian Free and Assurance have established themselves as one of the top-tier groups in the business with their last few releases. However, I have to say that “It’s So God” is my favorite. While I love the traditional SG arrangements that they’ve been known for, I’m also glad to see them spreading their wings stylistically. Great album.

    And, please, would somebody give Bill Shivers his dues. He is one of the most underrated singers in SG. Easily in the top 5.

  3. I’ll go one step farther. Shivers is one of the underrated leads in sgm. Keith Plott is maybe the most underated bass in sgm. I’ll catch a lot of grief for this, even the baritone is very good, but my problem with this group is Brian Free himself. His thin tenor sound always has turned me off somewhat (matter of preference, i guess.

    I bought this album because of DBM’s review and I haven’t been disappointed. My favorite, though, is “Man of Sorrow,” but the definitive version used to be up on Anthony Facello’s MySpace page backed by an unknown group (maybe a Mercy’s Mark bootleg?)

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