Prime Cuts: When You Pray God Answers, You Stayed, God Will Make a Way
When you listen to a Shirley Caesar record, you get three Caesars. You will be brought right into the throne room of God by Shirley Caesar the worship leader. You will be ministered to by Shirley Caesar the pastor. And you won't leave your listening experience without receiving some maternal doting by Shirley Caesar the grandmother. This is definitely the case with Caesar's first record since 2009's "A City Called Heaven." "Good God" is somewhat of a minor departure from the traditional Gospel style fans have loved about the 74 year-old First Lady of Gospel music. This time around, "Good Good" has a more contemporary edge with six tracks written by Kurt Carr and two co-written by James Fortune. Such a tilt towards a fresher sound is by no means an aleatory. Rather, it is Caesar's way of trying to reach a younger audience yet still retaining her traditional trademark of talking (or should one say preaching) in between songs.
However, despite the album's updated sound, Caesar has harkened back to the past with the inclusion of her Caravan day hit "Holy Boldness." Also, after decades of not singing with the Thompson Community Choir, one of Gospel music's most treasured ensembles, they again add their voices to Caesar's on the title cut, "Good God." All of this to say, there's something new and there's something old to add to what is still a thoroughly a quintessential Shirley Caesar record.
Caesar still shows that she is adroit in leading worship after all these years. Instead of stealing the limelight from the Thompson Community Choir on the title cut "Good God," she allows the famed choristers to sing the main melody while she sings on a tangentially guiding us to worship with her. While many leaders her age would be croaking through the high soaring crescendo notes of "Holy Boldness," Caesar shows that she can do it with effortless power just like the first time she recorded this worship staple. Just as every Spirit-filled worship leader does not draw attention to oneself but to the God we adulate, the songs here are divinely focused. Case in point is the single "God Will Make a Way." Not the Don Moen classic of the same titular, "God Will Make A Way" is a new song co-written by James Fortune. With a piano introduction, Caesar starts off tenderly steering our attention from our helplessness to God's sovereignty. And by the time the song reaches its apogee every doubt seems to be shattered by Caesar's convicting melisma.
Caesar is not just a worship leader of the tallest order but she is also a pastor. Together with her husband, they pastor the 1,500 Mount Calvary Holy Church Word of Faith Church in North Carolina. And one little known nugget is that Caesar was also the pastor of the late Whitney Houston. When the press pummeled the late Houston for her drug addictions after her death even questioning her faith, it was Caesar (as any good pastor would do) who stood up to defend the "How Will I Know' superstar. And her pastoral sensitivity is evident right through this record. As a pastor Caesar has had seen her share of broken marriages, but on "You Stayed" she assures us that Jesus is not like some men who leave their wives when the times get tough. And midway through "When You Pray God Answers" she stops the music and she starts praying for us. Talk about an anointed pastoral moment.
Finally, Caesar is also a grandmother to her fans. Here the songs are dotted with the wisdom of her years of Godly observations. Never too heavenly for any earthly good, Caesar does chided us (as any grandmother would) not to procrastinate on "Do It Today." While the light hearted Caesar-penned "ice to be Nice" is full of piquant advice of how we show treat each other with love. And on the gorgeous ballad "In God's Perfect Hands" Grandma Shirley shows us that the best way to dote your grandkids is not in giving them the best toys but to lead them to the hands of our Creator God. "Good God" is more than just a collection of songs, it's a Godly legacy given to us by a worship pastor who loves her fans like her own grandkids.