3:1 CD Review: In Good Hands (Declaration)
3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.
1: I’d Still Walk With Jesus. If this Jim Brady song sounds vaguely familiar, there is a good reason—it was recorded in 2006 by the Rochesters. But few remember that rendition, and the two groups have rather divergent styles. Of all the covers on the album, this is easily the strongest. It’s as good as new. The song’s mellow feel is perfect for Declaration’s tight harmonies. In fact, the rendition is so strong that it’s mildly surprising that the Booth Brothers haven’t already cut it.
2: Where Flowers Bloom. This song was penned by Steven Medlock in 1998, but I can’t find any instances of it appearing before a 2011 rendition by Christian bluegrass singer Val Storey. Even though it’s not the tenor’s strongest vocal performance on the album—let alone the strongest vocal performance overall—the song as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If you’re a fan of well-performed mellow songs (like “Oh, the Thought that Jesus Loves Me” or “Loving Shepherd, Gracious God”), this is the song that will get the most repeats.
3: I Call it Home. Yes, the lead vocal sounds so much like Ronnie Booth or Jim Brady that this track could land on a Booth Brothers album and plenty of fans wouldn’t notice. Look past that. Southern Gospel groups have recorded countless renditions of this song; this is easily one of the smoothest.
:1: “I Can’t Even Walk” and “Try a Little Kindness”: Southern Gospel groups have also recorded countless renditions of these two songs. Though there is nothing terrible or unprofessional about these back-to-back tracks (songs 5 and 6), other groups have turned in stronger renditions of each. Also, both seem to be over-done of late. If these tracks had been replaced by two strong, new tracks, the album’s rating would have been at least a half-star higher.
It’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Especially when singing as an ensemble, Declaration sounds remarkably like the Booth Brothers. This isn’t necessarily entirely accidental. Jim Brady completely produced one track, and Michael Booth and Jim Brady both provided vocal coaching when the group was recording vocals.
(The credits include an already almost quaint comment that the vocal assistance was provided by iPhone. Perhaps iPhones have peaked and will fade; perhaps they will become so ubiquitous that they won’t be worthy of comment. Either way, fifty years from now, you can practically guarantee that it will seem as quaint as a late-’50s LP liner note advertising the latest stereophonic technology “that will never obsolete” does now!)
Declaration sounds so much like the Booth Brothers that they prove the truth of the axiom that it’s entirely possible to have too much of a good thing. Though Jesus’ comment that a disciple cannot be greater than his master was not exactly spoken with performing musicians in mind, it’s applicable here; to make their own mark on the industry, they need to develop their own distinctive sound.
Radio Single Picks: “I’d Still Walk With Jesus,” “Where Roses Bloom.”
Average Song Rating: 3.1 stars.
Album Rating: 3.5 stars.
Credits: Produced by Nick Bruno, Wayne Haun, Jim Brady, Jake Sammons, Kasey Kemp, and Joshua Horrell. Group members: Not credited. Review copy provided.
Song List: Come to the Water; Too Near Home; I Call it Home; In Good Hands; I Can’t Even Walk; Try a Little Kindness; I’d Still Walk With Jesus; Where Flowers Bloom; I’ve Got a Reservation; I Know He Loves Me.