The Wayside Spiritual Songs as reviewed in The Phantom TollboothThe maturity rings out in every cut of this project, and those seeking to grow in their faith, while keeping their “cool cred” will find much to inspire them to greater heights.

Gyroscope Arts, Inc.
Spiritual Songs by the Wayside
The Wayside
11 tracks
www.thewayside.info

Retro hymn-based albums may be popular, but nothing on projects by Jars of Clay, Ashley Clevelend, even Kemper Crabb will prepare the listener for the opening cut of Spiritual Songs by the Wayside. When the syncopated cool licks of Bob Dylan's “Blessed is the Name of the Lord Forever,” hit the air, John J. and Michelle Thompson put the listener on notice. These Nashville cats are taking you on a wild, sacred ride.

Like his creative, distinguished career in Christian music, John J. Thompson's lifelong project, The Wayside, continues to mature in fascinating ways. Initially started as a side project during his many years at the helm of True Tunes music store and underground newspaper bases in Wheaton, Illinoia, his first smart move was marrying the vocalist, Michelle. Together, they weathered the seismic changes of the music industry which ultimately lead them and their beautiful family to Nashville, Tennessee, where John now serves as Creative Director at EMI CMG Publishing.

The maturity rings out in every cut of this project, and those seeking to grow in their faith, while keeping their “cool cred” will find much to inspire them to greater heights.

In addition to combing through Dylan bootlegs for the opening gem, the Thompsons share from a wide array of sources. Deep-cut hymn favorites like “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus,” “O Sacred Head now Wounded,” “I Need Thee Every Hour,” are right at home among pieces from Kris Kristoferson (“Why Me, Lord?”), Charlie Peacock (“Psalm 51”), and the Gaithers' “Because He Lives.” Working at EMI CMG Publishing has its perks: John includes an un-recorded Kate York tune, “You Took the Blame” that surely crys out for wider circulation.

Nashville friends and neighbors contribute significantly to this near-perfect, low-key project. Standouts include Kenny Hutson and Jake Bradley, known for their work with Over the Rhine and Vigilantes of Love; Matt Slocum of Sixpence None the Richer; and The Farewell Drifters.

John J and Michelle Thompson generously offer a window into their spiritual lives through Spiritual Songs, an outstanding addition to any thinking Christian music fan's collection.

4-1/2 tocks

4nhalftocks