CD Review: Satisfied (Josh Cobb)
The background: It was recorded by former Legacy Five tenor Josh Cobb, with his wife Beth playing piano, over the course of the last year or two (before Josh joined Gold City).
The basics: This album has a light jazz, easy-listening feel. Most of the songs are hymns, though Cobb offers his take on “I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary,” “How Big is God,” and “He Looked Beyond my Faults” from Southern Gospel, and “Calvary’s Love” and “More than You’ll Ever Know” from Inspirational music.
Several factors make this project difficult to peg. For one, Southern Gospel groups tend to throw in one or two light jazz-styled number on table projects just to change the pace. Those songs tend to be among the weaker, more frequently skipped tracks—and ones rarely heard in concert. So when an artist known for knocking out the roof on power ballads tries his hand at a full easy-listening album, it raises the question of whether the artist is trying to do something different just for a change of pace, just to try the style on and see how it fits.
But something about Satisfied just rings true. Beth Cobb might not be able to pull off a ninety-second 180-tempo convention song piano solo (but than again, she might!) Yet her piano stylings here come across as authentic. You cannot help but feel that this is her home style, a style she has played long enough to master and deliver confidently.
Josh Cobb’s vocals also seem to fit the music. The songs keyed lower seem to be keyed where they are because it’s the best voice placement to communicate the lyric effectively, not just to give his voice a break between those songs where he amps up the power (“I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary,” “Satisfied,” “He Looked Beyond My Fault.”)
The song selection is remarkably diverse, and the arrangements are consistently creative. “Calvary’s Love” is an old Steve Green song so perfect for a Southern Gospel treatment that it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done before. “The Broken Vessel” is rendered convincingly enough to come across as autobiographical. “Satisfied / The Crystal Fountain” shows a raw power in Cobb’s voice which was just starting to develop ten years ago. Yet Cobb doesn’t use that power on every song just because he can; “It is Well with my Soul” is given a slow, meditative treatment that brings out elements of the lyric not always noticed in bigger and faster arrangements.
Cobb brings something new to every song. And the changes don’t seem to be the all-too-frequent change for the sake of change; they seem to be the result of careful song selection and arranging. They fit Cobb’s voice.
I was tempted to do what I suspect many Southern Gospel fans will do, dismiss it on first listen and give it a rating of two or three stars. There isn’t really a fast song or a power ballad on the whole project, and those are the two must-haves for most Southern Gospel projects. The song that comes the closest, “Satisfied / The Cleansing Fountain,” wouldn’t quite feel at home on Southern Gospel radio, even if it is frequently the moment people talk about after a Gold City concert.
So it would be all too easy to dismiss this project and not give it a second listen. But even though it breaks the mold, it does so with remarkable creativity and convincing authenticity. So I am going to do something that I virtually never do for solo projects, or for piano / bass / light percussion table projects. Satisfied gets five stars.
Produced by: Joshua and Beth Cobb. • Available from: Artist, apparently on concert tables only. Review copy provided. • Song list: It is Well; Calvary’s Love More Than You’ll Ever Know; I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary; Satisfied / The Crystal Fountain; The Solid Rock / I Go to the Rock; The Broken Vessel; How Big is God; He Looked Beyond My Faults; Eternal Life. • Average song rating: 4.1 stars. CD rating: 5 stars.