Danny Gokey “Hope in Front of Me” Album Review

Danny Gokey
(Photo : Danny Gokey)

Prime Cuts: Hope in Front of Me, Better Than Gold, Tell Your Heart to Beat Again

It's more than just a fictitious sop story written for "Chicken Soup for the Soul."  It's Danny Gokey's life story.  In a time when Danny Gokey was relative unknown, his wife then Sophia was the one of the few human beings to believe in him.  After her constant persistence and encouragement, Gokey finally mustered enough courage to audition for American Idol.  However, fate has it that a month before Gokey actually took the stage at the popular TV singing contest, his wife underwent surgery for a congenital heart disease.  Unfortunately, Sophia died a month before her husband bore his soul on the eighth season of American Idol.  Though Gokey came in third, he has never been reticent about two matters: his love for Jesus and his love for country music.  Often two loves would inter-mingle especially when Gokey gave a compelling reading of country music chanteuse Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel."

Even before the season was over, Gokey was snapped away as RCA Nashville's latest signee.  His love for country music came to fruition with his the release of "My Best Days." Unfortunately, the album only received a tepid response failing to chart Gokey with a significant hit.  For his sophomore effort, Gokey has decided to give his other love greater exploration.  Described as an album with redemptive compassion is "Hope in Front of Me."  This is Gokey's first foray into faith-based music and thus far it has been greeted with greater arms.  'Hope in Front of Me" has just made it to the pinnacle of iTunes Christian and Gospel chart and Top 20 on the overall tally.

Helmed by Keith Thomas (Amy Grant, Chris Mann, Heather Headley), Josh Crosby (Cher, Owl City, Matt Kearney) and Bernie Herms (Natalia Grant, Barbra Streisand, Casting Crowns), "Hope in Front of Me" trawls a greater net in terms of themes and styles than its predecessor.  There are songs here that Contemporary Christian Music radio would devour.  This includes the lead single and title cut "Hope in Front of Me."  Fueled by his unimaginable heartache over the passing of Sophia, Gokey chronicles how Jesus can lead us from despair to hope again.  Listening in the context of Gokey's loss, the lyrics are a tug to the heart:  "There's hope in front of me/There's a light I still see it/There's a hand still holding me/Even when I don't believe it."   Continuing on the same lyrical trajectory of rebuilding one's life again after loss is the beautiful keyboard driven ballad co-written by Matthew West "Tell Your Heart to Beat Again."

"More Than What You Think I Am," on the other hand, eradicates the view that God is always angry and trying to find fault with us.  Rather, giving us a sneak peek into God's heart, this propulsive pop-oriented rocker reminds us again of God's unconditional love.  Not really abandoning his country roots, Gokey and producer Keith Thomas team up with country scribe Marcus Hummon (Tim McGraw, Dixie Chicks) in penning reflective "One Life."  "Better than Gold" and "Because of You" harkened back to Gokey's Idol days where he was the master interpreter of love songs.  With its use of Auto-voicing and a slick 70s-style R&B funk, "Better Than Gold" is indeed a charmer.  At the end of the day, relative to "My Best Days," Gokey sounds more confident as he opens up his life through songs that obviously shaped his own calling and his own values.

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