CD Review: Born With a Song (Freedom)
Several years ago, this post used statistical analysis to quantify something we already intuitively knew: Southern Gospel table projects tend to use the same songs over and over.
That post has formed the cornerstone of our ratings of table projects ever since. How creative was the group in picking their songs? Anything at or above a 66% creativity rating—meaning that at least two-thirds of the songs aren’t overdone—is considered to be a strong rating. What you almost never see, though, is a table project hit 100% on this meter. But that’s exactly the feat that Born With a Song pulls off.
In fact, there’s a sense in which this is the first truly table project to earn this rating; both previous albums to earn the designation were hybrid albums that mixed in some classic songs and some covers of recent hits.
Put more simply, the song selection on Born With a Song is brilliant. There’s a mixture of songs that everyone knows but that aren’t overdone (“Rise Again,” “Learning to Lean”) alongside songs practically nobody has done for twenty or thirty years that are just begging for a remake of this caliber (“It Made News in Heaven,” “Closer to You,” “On a Journey.”)
Freedom co-owners John Rulapaugh and Josh Garner brought a specific and unique concept to the song selection. As Josh Garner explains:
I was having a discussion one day about the charting history of the Florida Boys’ classic, “Standing On The Solid Rock.” Unsure of my facts, I referred to the Singing News Source Book, which has a list of all the top-ranking radio songs by year. As I searched, I noticed the song charted in 1979, the year of my birth, as well as some other tremendous hits that I had not heard in a long time. The wheels were already turning, so I scanned the 1977 chart, the year of John Rulapaugh’s birth, and once more saw a list of songs that were begging to be sung again. In the end, we chose four songs from each chart to record and rounded out the album with two top charting songs that gave birth to two of our all-time favorite groups: “Somebody Touched The Lord” by Perfect Heart and “On A Journey” by Greater Vision.
The production quality is a step above many table projects. With Gerald Wolfe producing tracks and Arthur Rice producing vocals (and adding a guest baritone vocals), the CD sounds like a mainline release.
Born With a Song is strong all-around, but Rulapaugh and Garner are probably at their strongest when they’re tearing up the Kingsmen classics “One Way Flight” and “It Made News in Heaven,” and “On a Journey,” known as a Greater Vision song but another song that would have felt at home on a Kingsmen album. Rulapaugh’s tender vocal on “Closer to You” is one of the finest vocal performances of his career.
Between mainline-quality tracks and vocal production, genius song selection, a memorable concept, and vocal performances by three of our genre’s strongest vocalists, Born With a Song deserves to go down as one of the year’s two or three strongest table projects.
Group Members: John Rulapaugh (tenor), Josh Garner (lead), guest vocals by Arthur Rice on baritone.
Song List: Somebody Touched The Lord (Sandy Knight); I Won’t Walk Without Jesus (Ronnie Hinson); One Way Flight (Jim Wood, Roger Holmes); What Sins Are You Talking About (Harold Lane); Learning To Lean (John Stallings); It Made News In Heaven (Gordon Jensen); Standing On The Solid Rock (Harold Lane); Rise Again (Dallas Holm); I Believe He’s Coming Back (Charles F. “Rusty” Goodman); On A Journey (Joseph DiQuattro); Closer To You (Dave Clark). Review copy provided.
Song Selection Creativity Meter: 100%. In place of radio single picks and an album rating, table projects featured in a 3:1 review are measured by a different metric—what percent of the songs on the album are pulled from outside of the 200 Most Frequently Recorded Southern Gospel songs.