Wes Hampton “Reality” Album Review

Wes Hampton

The best Christian songs are those that take most profound theological truths and make them plebeian.  They are the songs that do not linger in the shadows of the abstract, but they are donned with so much reality that we can put a finger on them and say, "Wow! This Jesus really cares for me!"  "Reality" is not only the title of Wes Hampton's latest album, but its titular meaning and impact is felt right through the album's entire 12 songs.  Drinking deep from the well of God's Word, these songs resonate with palatability vis-à-vis the deft use of believable day to day narratives, well-crafted scenarios and its acerbic vocabulary. On this CD you won't just admire a stain-glassed Jesus. Rather, you will encounter a flesh and blood Christ who changes the way we understand our perceived failings ("Weakest Part"), our relationships with our kids ("Me and God"), our lives' values ("My Father's House") and even how we relate to the Father ("Nothing Can Take You from Me"). For Southern Gospel fans, Hampton needs little introduction.  He is second tenor of the iconic Gaither Vocal Band (GVB).  Aside from his time with the GVB, Hampton also has had a solo career at the side.  To which "Reality" is the sophomore follow up to his critically acclaim solo debut "A Man Like Me."

"Reality" finds Hampton on the helm with producer/songwriter Sam Mizell. Mizell who has crafted songs for Newsboys, Kari Jobe and Jason Gray certainly brings in a more polished veneer to some of the songs here.  Therefore, instead of being domesticated to the canonical sounds of Southern Gospel or country, you will find a variegated sound from rustic rompers to big sounding power ballads to up-scaled mainstream pop slickers. To add further dimension to the record are the string of Hampton's colleagues who join him in the harmony vocal department.  They include the Martins, David Phelps, Marshall Hall, Steve Green, Charlotte Ritchie and Hampton's own family, the Hampton family.

Never one to rest in the lofty laurels of truth, "Me and God" brings to bear how God's love changes how we can love our kids unconditionally. Parents would do well to eavesdrop on this intimate tete a tete between Hampton and his boys.  Functioning like a sledgehammer to our pride is the album's most poignant cuts "Weakest Part."  In our culture where our successes (and identities) are so defined by time, achievements and accolades, this Bernie Helms (husband of Natalie Grant) and Sam Mizell composition turns these values upside down. "Weakest Part" reminds us again that our failings may actually be entry points for God to work His grace in our lives. Taking Ephesians 3:18-19 as the song's lyrical gist, "Nothing Can Take You from Me" is a gorgeous love song delivered from God's heart to ours. 

Charlotte Ritchie, whose own album is in a long time coming, joins Hampton on stately radio darling "Wrestling the Wind."  This song is framed by some 80s-sounding rhythmic percussions.  However, despite the vocal presence of Steve Green and David Phelps, "Echo of You" is both melodically and lyrically on the more pedantic side.  More creative is "Need Him the Most," here Hampton takes a scenic trip back to his roots on what is an acoustic sounding swampy blues love song to Jesus.  "Reality," in short, is not just a collection of songs.  These 12 songs are real life youtube enactments of God's truth played out in ways not only for enjoyment, but they also present lessons for us to learn and embraced within the fibre of our beings.

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Tags : Wes Hampton Reality Southern Gospel Gaither Vocal Band

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