CD Review: Bridges Over Blue (Charlotte Ritchie)
Rating: 4 stars
Producer: Gordon Mote & Marshall Hall
Songlist: I’m Gonna Take That Mountain; In Everything Give Thanks; No One Knows My Heart Better Than You; You Are Here With Me; Bridges Over Blue; My Father’s Angels; I’ve Got Joy; Nothing Keeps You From His Love; What Love Has Grown; Sometimes I Picture You That Way.
Artist Website: www.charlotteritchiemusic.com.
In 2006, Charlotte Ritchie released her debut solo project, Closer, with RSI Music Group. At the time, she was still a member of Jeff & Sheri Easter; Bridges over Blue is her first release as a full-time soloist.
Ritchie’s debut project had several hits on Southern Gospel radio and a top 10 hit on Inspirational radio. This project continues in a similar vein. The Southern Gospel element is unquestionably still there, especially on songs where Jeff & Sheri Easter or the Isaacs provide background vocals. On the other hand, when I was listening to “You Are Here with Me,” I could have closed my eyes and almost convinced myself I was hearing Twila Paris.
This project has the one indispensable element of any good project going for it–good song selection. Even with some stylistic variety, all of the songs fit Ritchie’s voice and combine well to make a unified whole. The project definitely has its catchy songs, too; “I’ve Got Joy,” the current radio single, would have been at home on a recent Karen Peck & New River project, while “You are Here With Me,” “Bridges Over Blue,” and “What Love Has Grown” are other memorable mid to uptempo tunes.
The project doesn’t have any hanky-waving, get-the-crowd-on-their-feet-and-keep-them-there-for-an-encore big ballads. Its slower songs, such as “No One Knows My Heart Better than You,” “Sometimes I Picture God That Way,” and “Nothing Keeps You From His Love” are more meditative numbers. But while this might normally be a minus, this project seems to have the coherence and self-confidence of an artist who knows what direction she wants to take the project and cooperative producers who don’t try to push the project in eight different directions to make everyone happy.
The packaging is professional quality. Songwriter and studio musician vocalists are included. The only discordant note is in the photography: Not only did Ritchie appear to wear the same outfit as she did in the photo shoot for her Go Rest High project (here) but the photo on the inside of the back CD cover appears to be the exact same photo as Go Rest High’s cover photo. [EDIT, 11/6/10: Regrettably, the link seems to be broken, so it has been removed.]
Even though it may be less true than thirty years ago, Southern Gospel is still a group-driven genre. On a personal level, like many other Southern Gospel fans, I admit to being partial to groups. And I tend to prefer the traditional end of the spectrum. But despite the fact that this project is a slightly progressive project by a soloist, it is nonetheless one of the best projects I’ve reviewed this year.