Prime Cuts: Holy is Thy Name (with Lift Up Holy Hands), Just to Know, Someone to Care
Overall Grade: 4/5
The Guardians have captured the majestic and intimacy of worship judiciously on their latest release. "It's Still Good News," their third outing for StowTown Records, is like their preceding records, it is extremely well-executed. Label chief and co-producer Wayne Haun is one of the most awarded musician at the GMA Dove Awards and one listen to this album you will know why. He lets each song come alive dressed with their individuality, never giving the impression that there's a prevailing "sameness" across the album. You have the orchestrated pieces with those soaring strings as well as the more traditional country swings to the swampy brassy bluesy numbers. This time Haun partners with the quartet's John Darin Rowsey in presenting these 12 new recordings, comprising of mostly new songs and a few covers.
The album gets off on a grandiose start with "Holy is Thy Name (with Lift Up Holy Hands)." With the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir-esque soaring orchestration crescendoing this hymn-like entry to its celestial heights augmented by the Guardian's glorious harmonies, this song is the soundtrack of heaven. Unfortunately, the track is followed by the brassy upbeat "I Wish I Could Tell You." On its own "I Wish I Could Tell You" may be a fine innocuous album cut, but after the heavenly-sounding "Holy is Thy Name," this gritty oft-beat number takes a drastic nose dive. The album picks up with the delightful country shuffle "Just to Know," which thrives on its superior melodic structure.
Those who like their Southern Gospel bombastic with those Cathedral-style harmonies will love the heavenly-themed "You're Here to Stay (Where We Ever Shall Be)." "Someone to Care" is the album's nerve center. Performed with just the right emotional nuances, this ballad is food for the soul as we are gently reminded of Jesus' abiding love for us. Such warmth is again conveyed in their rendition of the old Gospel favorite "One Pair of Hands" and the worshipful "Make My Heart Your Dwelling Place."
Not sure why but some of their uptempo cuts, such as the title cut "It's Still Good News" and "Breathe In Breathe Out" are not inspiring. The title track for instance tries to convey the idea that the Gospel message as contained in John 3:16 doesn't change. But the song sounds so cliche and mechanical that one would wish the song would indeed change. Other than these minor quibbles, the positives of "It's Still Good News" out weighs all the negatives. It's still one of those records that will get your clapping with joy as well as reaching for a Kleenex over the course of the listening experience.