CD Review: Revival (Karen Peck and New River)

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Revival - Karen Peck and New River

Ten or fifteen years ago, Karen Peck & New River transitioned from the live-band era of the group to a more progressive sound. At that point, they were ahead of the curve. But now, that curve has come and gone, and probably 2/3 of what is in the Singing News Top 40 today would have been classified as progressive just fourteen years ago, when the Cathedrals hung up their traveling shoes.
 
With Revival, Karen Peck & New River doesn’t exactly abandon the progressive sound. What they do is incorporate a fresh infusion of Bluegrass. Karen has always had an affinity for that genre, and the group has done Bluegrass-influenced tracks before, but the influence seems to be more significant here. While several tracks remain straight-ahead to-tappers or progressive numbers, there are a number of tracks with a relatively prominent Bluegrass-style banjo, fiddle, and mandolin added into the mix.
 
Three tracks stand out as particularly strong songs. The opening and closing numbers, “Revival” and “I’m Saved,” are both impossibly catchy strong songs about salvation, and, incidentally, are two of the most Bluegrass-influenced songs. “Dancing Like Lazarus,” a Joseph Habedank co-write, is every bit as creative, lyrically and musically, as we’ve come to expect from his pen. It’s probably one of his three to five most innovative songs yet.
 
With Revival’s shift in a Bluegrass direction, is Karen Peck & New River ahead of the curve again? Is a significant Bluegrass influence part of our genre’s future?
 
There’s a sense in which, for the time being, that doesn’t really matter, because it fits Karen Peck & New River, that’s what really matters.
Traditional or Progressive: Middle-of-the-road with flavors of progressive and bluegrass.

Group Members: Karen Peck Gooch (soprano), Susan Peck Jackson (alto), Jeff Hawes (male harmony).

Credits: Produced by Wayne Haun. Tracks recorded by Melissa Mattey at Daywind Studio A, Hendersonville, TN. Vocals recorded and edited by Justin Kropf. Orchestra recorded by Bobby Shin at Little Big Sound, Nashville, TN. Musicians: Gordon Mote (piano, B3 organ); John Hammond (drums); Kevin Grantt (bass); Kevin Williams (acoustic guitar); Pat McGrath (acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo); Glen Duncan (fiddle, banjo); Kenny Greenberg (electric guitar); Scott Sanders (steel guitar).

Song List (songwriters in parentheses): Revival (Kenna Turner West, Karen Peck Gooch, Don Poythress); Oh Hallelujah (Gerald Crabb, Don Poythress); Finish Well (Kenna Turner West, Karen Peck Gooch, Michael Farris); Everybody’s Going Through Something (Kenna Turner West, Karen Peck Gooch, Don Poythress); Dancing Like Lazarus (Joseph Habedank, Sue Smith, Tony Wood); Jesus Remember Me (Wayne Haun, Joel Lindsey, Jeff Bumgardner); I’ve Been Broken (Daryl Williams); Joy In My Heart (Tanya Goodman Sykes, Walter Mills); You Did It Anyway (Don Poythress, Rich Als, John Colgin); I’m Saved (Jason Coxx, Sue Smith, Karen Peck Gooch).


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11 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. “Credits: Produced by Wayne Hain.” Wayne Haun, by any chance?

  2. “Revival” is bluegrass? Sorry, not hearing it. It’s straight ahead pop-country. I agree though that “Dancing Like Lazarus” has a definitive bluegrass twist to it – but again not pure bluegrass.

    To me, this song is squarely in the progressive mold – especially songs like “Revival,” “Oh Hallelujah,” “Finish Well,” “Joy In My Heart,” “I’m Saved,” and “You Did It Anyway.” “Everybody’s Going Through Something” immediately reminded me of something from Jason Crabb’s solo outings (I even thought Gerald Crabb was the writer before I got songwriting credits on the disc).

    BTW – looking through the current Top 20 – I’d say it’s an even spread between traditional, progressive and country. However, you may be lumping country in with progressive when you make a statement about 2/3 being progressive now.

    • I didn’t say it was bluegrass; I said it was bluegrass-influenced, more so than their precious albums.

      I lump country in with progressive if it’s more Blake Shelton than Hank Williams.

  3. I would also say Karen is still ahead of the curve in terms of stylistic choices in SG. Is she the most progressive? No – that honor goes to Beyond the Ashes, Brian Free & Assurance, and Sisters. However, I do think she’s still ahead of the pack – still more progressive than Middle of the Road acts like The Whisnants, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, and the Booth Brothers.

    • Sisters are more progressive than Karen Peck & NR? Don’t they do a lot of a cappella stuff? That doesn’t seem very progressive to me……

      • Many groups do some acapella material, including, from time to time, Karen Peck & New River. At least as far as our genre goes, it is standard operating procedure to judge how progressive a group is by the musical content of their songs which contain accompaniment.

  4. I’ve been listening to this one since NQC and ,love it!!! Good review!!!

  5. I agree with the Pop-Country reference. I will say this about KPNR. When I was a teenager (not very long ago) in their Live Band days, I was a KPNR JUNKIE! Since the band left I thought she was playing toward a “different” style that didn’t suit her. With “Revival” the KPNR I loved as a kid (remember, not long ago) is back! I usually like 3-5 songs at most on a project I like all but one on this one an it even is a great song, great production it just didn’t hit it up with me. I think this could be known as the greatest New River project ever!

  6. When southern gospel artists choose and record songs they usually choose around 10 songs. Usually about 6 of the songs chosen are great picks, but the other 4 are never used live or heard from again. This album to me personally has some of the best selection of songs a group could choose. Every song has a great message, and blesses me every time I hear it! Awesome album!