Ernie Hasse & Signature Sound “Clear Skies” Album Review
Prime Cuts: Clear Skies, Sailing with Jesus, Walking Through Fire
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
"Clear Skies" is not a mere meteorological prediction. Rather, it's a prophetic statement of faith. When Ernie Haase and Signature Sound (EHSS) were making this project, Ernie's sister Tara was fighting a losing battle with cancer. Just a few weeks shy of the album's drop date, Tara was sadly called home to her Maker. Thus, "Clear Skies" was born and nurtured across stormy weather where nimbus clouds were omnipresent. Yet, the record does not cower under the threats of life's storms. Rather, these 15 songs, which compromises of mostly newly composed songs, teach us to see the rays of sunshine and to wait for God's clear skies to come back again.
Though 10 out of the 15 songs, that is two thirds, of the record bear a 2016 or 2017 copyright imprint, there's a vintage sound to it. As soon as the first note strikes, you get the uncanny feel you are listening to one of those classic Gospel records. Those albums that are so good that you never get tired of listening to them even though you have listen to the songs for the umpteenth time. With bright sprightly brass horns over a sun-kissed melody, the title cut "Clear Skies" is one of the most ebullient testimonies of hope in God's sovereignty in the midst of our sufferings. Continuing on similar thematic trajectory is the addictive finger-snapping Jimmy Buffett-esque "Sailing with Jesus."
Not only are there rays of sunshine across the lyrics, EHSS really know how to bask in the sun with the infectious toe-tapping two-stepping country "You'll Find Him There" and "As for Me and My House." Though many have covered Bob Benson Sr. & Phillip Johnson's "Give Them All to Jesus," the Booth Brothers and EHHS really nails this classic by giving it a breezy 70s-pop feel that makes you want to press the "repeat" button again and again.
Of note is "Give Me Jesus" which is a new song based on a long lost poem of famed hymn writer Fanny "Blessed Assurance" Crosby. Nevertheless, the crowning jewel of this album is the touching ballad "Walking Through Fire." Though this theme of how God is the fourth man who walks with us in the furnace is not novel in Gospel music, the way EHSS wrap their voices around each note is so moving that you can't help but to keep a box of Kleenex nearby.
Yet, not everything passes with flying colors. "Love Took His Breath Away" leans towards the draggy and mawkish side. Not sure why EHSS has decided to give "Three Men on the Mountain" another run when the Perrys (also on StowTown Records) had given it an impeccable reading only a few years ago. Despite some minor quibbles, "Clear Skies" is a "must-buy" if you are under the weather. This is a map that will help you navigate out of the storm to see God's gracious sunlight in the darkness and the rain.
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