Prime Cuts: Say Something, Angel Band (with Alison Krauss), Victory in Jesus
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
Though Bradley Walker is signed to Gaither Music, he's vastly different from the imprint's representative genre of artists. He isn't your typical Southern Gospel soloist. Rather, gifted with a smooth backwoods tenor that calls to mind a younger Vince Gill, there's flourishes of bluegrass and country in his Gospel music. Walker first came to be signed by Bill Gaither's legendary label, in part, because the late Joey Feek, who was mesmerized by Walker's vocals. In fact, she was so impressed with Walker that she even requested Walker to sing at her funeral. Wowing everyone with his tear stained performance, Walker was noticed by Gospel music veteran Bill Gaither who was also at the funeral. This quickly ensued into a record deal and "Call Me Old-Fashioned" is the outcome.
"Blessed: Hymns and Songs of Faith" is Walker's sophomore effort for Gaither Music following his critically acclaimed debut "Call Me Old-Fashioned." "Blessed" is considered Walker's bucket list project in the sense that he has always wanted to do a hymns album. Though such endeavors are a dime and a dozen, what sets "Blessed" is in the choice of material. Rather than recycling through the same old hymns, Walker has reinvented the green bin by mixing his choice of hymns with more obscure Southern Gospel classics.
Not since Emmylou Harris has anyone done such a spine-chilling version of "Angel Band." Though Alison Krauss is listed as a featured artist, she doesn't steal the spotlight. Rather, augmenting Walker's tenor, Krauss adds an angelic sheen to the song that is just pulverizing. Oak Ridge Boys doesn't just sing. But together with Walker they take us back in time, giving "Family Bible" a 60s-styled sepia-tone lamination. Guitar enthusiasts will love the simple and yet gorgeous playing of "I Will Someday" which boasts a light country-jazzy backing.
If you like your music really country, that is unobstructed by any modern polytechnics, take a listen to "Drifting too Far From the Shore." Walker and Vince Gill have literally ace their performances here. Statler Brother's Jimmy Fortune further continues this country route by adding his harmonies to that of Walker on a fiddle and steel heavy "The Old Rugged Cross." If you like your country upbeat with an Alan Jackson type of a clunky kick, Walker's brilliant version of the hymn "Victory in Jesus" will get your toes tapping.
"Say Something" is the solo new song here. A little on the draggy side, but the song is a hit to the heart as it deals with the issue of why the Lord sometimes tarry in the midst of our sufferings. Then you are also bogged with a few standard fare hymns like "Amazing Grace," "Because He Lives" and "I'll Fly Away." They are impeccably performed but it's just that they are pretty overdone. Top marks, nevertheless, goes to Walker. He sings with an understated passion. And with songs that are beautifully put together, these are enough reasons to purchase this record.