CD Review: Statement of Faith (Statement of Faith)

Statement of Faith - Jacob Kitson, Joe Kitson, Jon EpleyEarlier this year, Greater Vision tenor Jacob Kitson left to launch Statement of Faith. An early video clip of the group performing “When I Survey” prompted a number of fans to write the group off as a Greater Vision-lite lookalike.

Rather than rushing out a quick table project, Statement of Faith took their time to release a debut of largely original songs. Doubters, doubt no more, because Statement of Faith is one of the strongest debut projects in recent years. Greater Vision fans need not fear, because that influence is there—but it’s more Greater Vision meets Kingdom Heirs meets the Gaither Vocal Band. Yes, seriously.

Much like the group’s NQC showcase, the song order on this project belies a quiet confidence and a long-term plan. While some groups with an award-winning founding member fresh off a stint in one of Southern Gospel’s most popular groups would lean heavily on that connection as a familiar launching pad, Jacob Kitson chose instead to use the group’s showcase appearance to raise the profile of his other group members, featuring his brother/lead singer Joe Kitson and baritone Jonathan Epley, while not even identifying himself or mentioning Greater Vision.

The song order on Statement of Faith reveals that same confidence and plan. Instead of starting out with the loudest, fastest, most radio-friendly tracks to grab listeners’ attention, the three opening tracks are the project’s (only) three covers. The opening track, “I Enjoy the Trip,” is a fun but largely forgotten Cathedrals song from 1981 or 1982. Longtime Cathedrals aficionados will note the quiet salute to Southern Gospel’s most beloved group, while for more casual listeners, the song will be as good as new.

The familiar but rarely-recorded hymn “Shall We Gather at the River” provides a relaxed change of pace, and, though subdued, is one of the project’s finest performances.

“Even Now,” penned by Kitson’s former bandmate Rodney Griffin, was recorded by Ernie Haase and Signature Sound several years ago, but has since been largely phased out of their live performances. Jon Epley offers a gripping rendition of this power ballad.

Griffin contributed two other tracks to the project, “Masterpiece of Mercy” (a co-write with Jim Brady) and the fourth track, “Come Dirty, Leave Clean.” Joe Kitson offers a soulful rendition that would feel at home on a Gaither Vocal Band project.

Joe Kitson wrote the fifth and sixth tracks, “Keep Keepin’ On” and “Resist the Devil, Draw Nigh to God.” The latter is particularly strong; Arthur Rice’s vocal production brought out a Kingdom Heirs feel on the track.

Two songs co-written by Joseph Habedank and Matthew Holt follow. “I Knew It Was Him” is a power ballad; while it might not get you out of your seat on first spin, it will stand out as one of the project’s stronger tracks after repeated listens. “Back to Grace” is uptempo and, while it does not go as far as a Brian Free & Assurance or Akins track, is one of the project’s more progressive tracks.

The closing track, “Thy Holy Word,” is an absolute gem, one of the project’s standout tracks. It’s an acapella take on a song that, at first, I assumed was one of those rare hymns I’ve never heard. (Okay, there have been hundreds of thousands of hymns written, so the “rare” part was admittedly slightly sarcastic.) But in point of fact, it’s a third song written by lead singer Joseph Kitson. It has a pleasantly traditional feel that bears up well under repeated listens.

This site’s five-star rating is generally reserved for the best five or so CDs of the year. This project (a debut project, no less) comes incredibly close—and as it stands, is solidly among the year’s ten strongest releases. Statement of Faith establishes its eponymous creator as one of the strongest and most promising new groups in the genre.

Produced by: Danny Crawford. • Group Members: Jacob Kitson (tenor), Joe Kitson (lead), Jon Epley (baritone). • Available from: Artist. Review copy provided. • Song list: I Enjoy the Trip; Shall We Gather at the River; Even Now; Come Dirty, Leave Clean; Resist the Devil, Draw Nigh to God; I Knew it Was Him; Back to Grace; Masterpiece of Mercy; Thy Holy Word. • Average song rating: 4.3 stars. CD rating: 4.5 stars.

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