CD Review: Here Comes Sunday (Wilburn & Wilburn)
Here Comes Sunday is the second mainline release from father/son duo Jonathan and Jordan Wilburn. Their debut release, Family Ties (reviewed here), was likely the most eclectic Southern Gospel release of 2011. Remarkably, Here Comes Sunday is even more eclectic, with a little more electric guitar and a little more soul. In fact, the stylistic range of this project is so broad that there is almost literally something for any Southern Gospel fan’s musical taste—except, perhaps, for people who prefer an album to stick to a single consistent musical identity.
During his twelve-year run as lead singer for Gold City, Jonathan Wilburn became known for a number of soulful signature songs, perhaps most notably the #1 hit “He Said.” Fans who expressed disappointment that Here Comes Sunday didn’t have much in the way of soul will absolutely love one of this project’s strongest tracks, “Funeral Plans.” It is a song Wilburn would have torn up in his Gold City days, and this showstopper proves that his voice didn’t lose a thing in his years off the road.
Much like the overall album approach, the vocal approach is eclectic. Some songs feature tight duo harmonies, while the harmonies are phrased less closely—probably intentionally—on other songs. If you’re expecting duo harmonies throughout, you’ll be disappointed; several songs are either a solo or have the singer not featured so far down in the mix that he may as well have been a background singer. In addition to duo songs and solo-with-background-vocal songs, there are also songs like a rather enjoyable cover of the classic “I’m Bound For That City” which feature a lead singer and a choir.
One of Wilburn & Wilburn’s strengths is song selection. Their song lyrics are fresh and cover new territory, without abandoning our genre’s home turf of Heaven and Cross songs. “If These Old Walls Could Talk” is a delightful bluegrass tune musing on the memories held in an old church building. “Joseph” is similarly reflective, though in a more subdued way; it muses on the challenges faced by Joseph (Mary’s husband, not Jacob’s son). The song might bring to mind the opening two minutes of the timeless classic “Mary, Did You Know,” but while the soaring bridge of the latter has played a major role in its iconic status, “Joseph” remains rather subdued throughout.
“Every Scar” is the most compelling Southern Gospel story-song penned this decade. It has been recorded by The Talleys, Christian Davis (of Dailey and Vincent), Darin & Brooke Aldridge, and now Wilburn & Wilburn. It’s one of those songs that ought to have been a #1 hit, but because it hasn’t (though it charted for four months for Darin & Brooke Aldridge, peaking at #59 in March 2012), one artist after another keeps recording it. And because it is so strong, it’s far from stale; Jonathan Wilburn’s solo here is one of the CD’s highlights.
Far from a sophomore disappointment, Here Comes Sunday is even stronger than its predecessor.
Group Members: Jonathan Wilburn, Jordan Wilburn.
Credits: Produced by Ben Isaacs. Musicians: Ben Isaacs (bass), Greg Ritchie (drums, percussion), Kelly Back (electric guitar), Scott Sanders (steel guitar), Gordon Mote (piano, B-3, organ, keys), Aubry Haney (mandolin, fiddle), Bryan Sutton (acoustic guitar), Buddy Green (harmonica), Sonya Isaacs Yeary (mandolin), Jeremy Medkiff (acoustic guitar), Michael Rhodes (electric bass). Background vocals: Steve Ladd, Gene McDonald, Sonya Isaacs Yeary, Chip Davis, Becky Isaacs Bowman, Ben Isaacs. Engineered by Ben Isaacs, Jordan Wilburn, Mark Capps. Mastered by Ben Isaacs.
Song List (songwriters in parentheses): Here Comes Sunday (Lee Black, Jason Cox, Tony Wood); Funeral Plans (Linda Gibson-Johnson); Joseph (Don Poythress, Tony Wood); Nobody Like Jesus (Joseph Habedank); I’m Bound For That City (Albert E. Brumley and the Brumley Brothers); Every Scar (Lee Black, Gina Boe, Jerry Salley); Help Me (Jimmy Yeary, Cletus Judd, Gary LeVox); If These Old Walls Could Talk (Jerry Salley, Dianne Wilkinson); A Man Like Me (Dianne Wilkinson, Jimmy Yeary); Heaven’s Jubilee (Adger Pace, G.T. Speer); Everything’s New (Rebecca Peck), Across the Miles (Karen Staley).