Prime Cuts: Because of Who You Are, My Jesus I Love Thee, Sweeter
Overall Grade: 4.75/5
Cover albums of hymns and contemporary songs are not novel. The choices of hymns (particularly) on Riley Harrison Clark's latest album isn't very subtle either. You have some of the most over-done hymns such as "Joyful, Joyful" "Just as I Am/I Need Thee every Hour" and "Rock of Ages" thrown in. Though there is only one new song in the oeuvre (the title cut "Oh How You Love"), yet there's something about this 9-song record that grabs you from the beginning right to the end. Perhaps, it's the deft production chops of producer Tré Corley; he is able to complement each song with backings that are not only easy on the ears but interesting enough to capture our imaginations. And perhaps it's also Clark's soothing yet affecting vocals; he emotes in ways that are contemporary, worshipful, and heartfelt.
Clark is a Dove nominated artist who has garnered multiple number one songs as a member of Tribute Quartet. For nearly a decade Riley has toured with the premier group, Tribute Quartet all over the world. "Oh How You Love" is Clark's sophomore solo record following on the heels of 2018's "Welcome to Me." As aforementioned, this new album contains one new song, three contemporary worship covers, and five hymns.
Let's start with the worship covers first. Best among this corpus is Martha D Munizzi's 2002 single "Because of Who You Are." For those of us who are too young to remember the original, "Because of Who You Are" could easily be written today. The Christ entered chorus and the beautifully crafted melody have a way of sweeping us into presence of Jesus. Lincoln Brewster''s "Today is the Day" isn't an obvious cover; but Clark does a fine job in making this song his own. By eradicating Brewster's signature electric guitar riffs, Clark imbues it with a popish-country signed with his own warmth and nuances, Lakewood Worship's "Sweeter" is a song that lives up to its titular: the chorus of delightful backing vocals and Clark's affecting persona bring out the sweetness of Jesus in the most delicious way.
The title cut "Oh How He Loves" is the only original song. Written by Jason Crabb and producer Tré Corley, it is also the weakest offering. Not that the songs ropey, but it is just one of those innocuous Gospel-ish country-pop number made for radio. Much better are the hymns. Kudos to producer Corley for his ingenuity in breathing new life to these hymns: "Nothing But the Blood/The Blood will Never Loose its Power," for instance, gets a brassy jazzy-blues kick. While the cello and strings of "Just as I Am/I Need Thee Every Hour" give this medley a Celtic makeover. "Oh How I Love Jesus," done on a more accelerated pace, enjoys a breezy country feel that is endearing.
Though this may be a primarily covers record, don't let the familiarity of these song titles fool you. Clark never takes these songs for granted. Rather, he and Corley listen to the songs with fresh ears before making them their own. These covers are interesting and affecting; and you will find yourself worshipping along with Clark from start to finish.