Created on Thursday, 31 May 2012 Written by Derek WalkerNash could make a shopping list sound magical, and this gets just about everything right.
Time: 12 tracks / 47 minutes
It’s hard to go wrong with this combination: Leigh Nash has the sort of vocals that could stop a troll from going on a rampage, while time-tested hymns so often convey so much so eloquently.
My initial reaction, however, was that there is too little light and shade – song after song with such a distinctive voice and no instrumental break was beginning to sound samey – but over many plays the tunes evolved and are truly strong enough in their own right to draw the listener in, right to the end. More than this, the album bears immediate repeat play.
The song choice works well and there are several contenders for best track, but front runner must be “Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us.” It kicks off the set and you would hardly know it is a hymn from this arrangement. From the jaunty banjo introduction that keeps the song charged all the way through to those accent harmonies, this is just about perfect.
“O Heart Bereaved and Lonely” has different strengths. It is unusual for Nash to take a melancholy song, but having experienced significant bereavement of late, she adds well to the song’s gravitas, built on a portentous drum line, resonant bass fills and plenty of space.
On tracks like “Isaiah 55,” with Paul Mabury’s elevating drumming, Stu G’s sparkling guitar and all the textural stuff behind them, let’s admit it: this might just as well be Sixpence None the Richer - and that’s something to celebrate.
One particularly surprising selection is “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come,” which I have probably not heard covered in my last 12 years of reviewing – at least not in a contemporary version. It is a harvest hymn, but like the best carols, its truths stand all year round.
These songs have all of life inside: praise for God’s wonder and salvation; thanks for his provision; comfort in distress; hope for the future; a declaration of peaceful stillness and celebration of freedom.
Nash still sounds beautiful. In the liner notes, she thanks Brett Manning “for helping my voice grow up a little more.” There are times when she sings beyond her trademark whimsical tone. She plays this simply, honestly and with feeling, eschewing anything overdone. However she sings, Nash could make a shopping list sound magical.
The title reveals that this is not just hymns, but also sacred songs. This fusing of material blends the project beautifully. As well as old hymns played straight, there are others with new tunes (“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”); a Getty/Townsend new song (“Power of the Cross”) typically structured as something more classic; and a couple of newer songs that sound lighter.
Little is wrong here. The verses of “Give Myself to You” sound a little cheap, although it builds to a decent Nash chorus. One or two tracks are less arresting, but still decent. Overall, the album is exceedingly well put together.
John Hartley seems to have a way with producing female vocalists and this is another masterful job: atmospheric, lush, shiny and with a crisp percussive edge. It helps that Derri Daugherty and Shane Wilson have made a perfect mix. It is often true that the appeal of ‘growers’ lasts longer than instant collections and this is another case in point. Nice job.
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