The Booth Brothers 'A Tribute to the Songs of Bill & Gloria Gaither' Album Review
Prime Cuts: Through, Let the Healing Begin, There's Something About that Name
This record is the nexus of a realized fantasy: can anything be more heavenly than the coming together of two names synonymous with Southern Gospel music? "A Tribute to the Songs of Bill and Gloria Gaither" finds the Booth Brothers singing the songs of the Gaithers. Having written over 600 songs and released way over 60 records, Bill and Gloria Gaither have had revolutionize the modern hymn book. Iconic anthems such as "He Touched Me," "Worthy is the Lamb," "Because He Lives," "Sinner Saved by Grace" and "The King is Coming" have filled the soundscape of churches big and small across the globe over the years. And the Booth Brothers are no novice either. Despite the many permutations of who constituted the group, they have been making music since the 1950s. Slapped with copious accolades over the years from the GMA Dove and Grammy associations, the Booth Brothers have deservedly become the capstone of Southern Gospel music. Yet, the first thing to say about this new record is that the titular must not be overlooked: this is not a greatest hits collection whereby the Booth Brothers would sing the tried and the best Gaithers' songs. Rather, this is a "tribute" disc meaning that though all these songs honor the couple's mettle as songwriters, they are not necessary their best known numbers. In fact, out of these 15 cuts two of them ("Let the Healing Begin" and "I Played in the Band") are newly written by Bill Gaither and Larry Gatlin. To make the listening experience fresher and more interesting some more obscure cuts have also thrown in including "God Gave the Song" and "Feeling at Home in the Presence of Jesus." Then you do find the truly old Gaither favorites such as "He Touched Me," "There's Something About that Name" and "Because He Lives."
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Album opener "Because He Lives" sets the tenor for the entire record. While many have often given this 1974 GMA Award winning "Song of the Year" a bombastic treatment, here the Booth Brothers have treated this classic hymn with an unhurried, comfortable and lived-in feel. This becomes the template for the rest of the album. With some cascading jazzy piano, some soothing brotherly harmonies, and a generous array of strings, "God Gave the Song" is a relaxing ode of confidence in God's goodness despite the troubles around us. One of the most worshipful pieces in the Gaithers' catalog has to be "There's Something About that Name." The simplicity of the message, the irresistibly catchy melody and the imbuing of a big band cinematic backing truly make the Booth Brothers' take of this classic truly a highlight. Also we should not forget the Gaithers' "I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary." The Cross of Jesus Christ does not get a more palpable and a heartfelt exposition than this hymn. And here the Booth Brothers have given "I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary" such a triumphant reading that one is encouraged to give them a standing ovation when they reached the coda: "I will cling to the old rugged Cross."
As for the two newly written tracks, "I Played in the Band" is a fun, upbeat toe tapper that is somehow biographical. Though written by Bill Gaither and country veteran Larry Gatlin, "I Played in the Band" is apologetic of the trio's love for devoting their lives to make music for Jesus. The other new track is the penultimate "Let the Healing Begin" - a beautifully written ballad that gently invokes the presence of Jesus that is truly a meditative; an experience not to be missed. "He Touched Me" treads on the same heartfelt worship line too--quite often we are so enamored by the glorious majesty of Jesus that we forget that he is also imminent; in fact, he is so close that we can ask Him to touch us. Also, a gem is "Through." Without the tradition verse chorus structure, "Through" functions like a benediction that so befittingly closes the disc.
Yet the Booth Brothers do not sing alone. Bill Gaither joins them in the swinging "Joy in the Camp" while Melissa Brady (Booth Brother Jim's wife) adds her rich alto to "Tell Me." Overall, producer Nick Bruno and the Booth Brothers need to be congratulated: this album is a joy to listen to. It is like an old pair of shoes-comfortable, enjoyable and by no means soporific. If one has to nitpick about this otherwise excellent album, it would have to be that 15 songs don't do justice. One somehow wished they would have tackled the Gaithers' "Worthy is the Lamb" or "Sinners Saved by Grace." Maybe one day they would. Maybe after such an excellent album, a second volume is called for.
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