Joint CD Review: What Will My Cross Testify (The Rowlands)

This is a joint review with Adam Edwards of Southern Gospel Critique.

1. “What Will My Cross Testify”
Adam: Ron Martin’s power vocals on this Kyla Rowland tune really kick this project off. Ron is one of the best vocalists in Southern Gospel music that chooses to remain in the ministry instead of the limelight. “What Will My Cross Testify” is a powerful song to kick off this new project from The Rowlands.

Daniel: Of course, the ministry and the limelight aren’t mutually exclusive, but I do understand what you’re saying.

2. “Did I Mention”
Adam: Tenor Wes Green sings the lead vocals on this new Kyla Rowland tune and cranks out a great vocal offering. This was my first exposure to the song, but The Perrys have also recorded it on their upcoming release featuring Libby Perry. This should be a great radio release. Awesome song.

Daniel: The lyrics on the verses are, at least in my opinion, the most memorable part of the song. The verses have some powerful thoughts.

3. “Back To Me”
Daniel: This song, which was recorded by Triumphant Quartet in 2005, is one of only two songs on the project not penned by Kyla Rowland. (The other is “Resting in His Grace.”) Yet this song, written by Marty Allen and Robert Arthur, does fit the feel of the rest of the project well.

Adam: Ron Martin once again shows his vocal prowess on this tune. This song was originally released to radio in 2007 by Eighth Day. It reached #26 on the October, 2007 Singing News Top 80. It is basically a tune written about the Prodigal Son and is a great setup song for an invitation in a church service.

4. “A Table In The Wilderness”
Adam: The Mike Bowling Group originally cut this Kyla Rowland song in 2006. The Rowlands have upped the tempo just a bit from their version and have made it much more appealing to the ears. Baritone Kenneth Stepp takes the melody on the verses with Ron Martin finishing the melody on the chorus. This song is one of the highlights for me on this project.

5. “Safe Thus Far”
Daniel: This is the same song the Hoskins Family cut several years ago. For those who don’t particularly care for vocal embellishments, this is a much more straight-ahead version of the song. This rendition has less, both in the way of instrumentation and vocal embellishments, to distract from the lyric, and the lyric comes through with a new power.

Adam: This simplified version of the tune made popular by The Hoskins Family is much more appealing than the over-embellished original.

Daniel: Precisely.

6. “He Crossed Out My Sin And Shame”
Adam: This ballad sung by Ron Martin is a fairly mellow tune. I really like the imagery of Christ ‘crossing’ out my sin and shame on the cross of Calvary.

7. “Moving the Hand of God.”
Daniel: The Mark Trammell Trio released the best-known version of this cut on their 2007 project Once Upon a Cross. Both the Mark Trammell Trio version and the Rowlands’ version sound like a quartet song waiting to happen, just lacking a bass singer. It is not too hard to imagine a group like the Kingdom Heirs or the Perrys turning this into a barn-burner that audiences beg to be encored.

Adam: I’ll agree with Daniel. A bass singer on this song would be awesome!

8. “One Scarred Hand”
Daniel: Unlike the classic Gold City rendition, this Rowlands rendition stays in the same key throughout the whole song. Unlike the classic Gold City rendition which modulates up a fourth into each chorus, and manages to cover the keys of A, D, B-flat, and E-flat before the final bars, the Rowland start in A and stay in the key of A throughout.

Adam: The Rowlands have sang this song for years and have finally recorded it. This is a calmer version than Gold City’s, but that’s is not a bad thing. Wes Green is very comfortable with the song and it shows in the recording.

9. “We’ll Go Down Standing Up”
Daniel: The Rowlands have access to Kyla Rowland’s songs, oftentimes before the major groups get them. This song is a major group’s hit song just waiting to happen. It addresses a theme (persecution) many Southern Gospel songs avoid addressing this directly.

Just as a side note, speaking as a songwriter, “Lord” and “God” are two words that don’t rhyme easily. This song comes up with a pretty unique rhyme combination in the chorus: “We may be run through with a sword / But we’ll keep standing for the Lord / We may go down, but we’ll go down standing up.”

Adam: This is probably the most unique song on the project due to the theme of the song.

Daniel: Other than the already-classics, this is definitely the song that stuck out the most in my mind, one that kept playing through my mind after the last notes of the CD faded off. If I was a group manager and was sent a demo CD of all the new songs on this project, this is the one I would definitely jump to place a hold on.

10. “Resting In His Grace”
Adam: Kenneth Stepp penned this song that he also sings the melody on. It’s a good song and to me, there is nothing like a songwriter singing their own songs. I can’t wait to hear this one live!

11. “How Blessed”
Adam: At first, this song would not have been my choice to close out a project, but after hearing Ron’s powerful voice tell us just how blessed we are, you can’t help but close the project reflecting on the goodness and grace of our Savior. “How blessed is the one who died for me” is a lyric that really sticks to you. We are indeed blessed and this song turned out to be one of my favorite from the new release.

Final Rating:
Adam: 3.8 star song average / 4 stars overall
Daniel: 3.4 star song average / 3.5 stars overall

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