Various Artists – Gaither Tribute: Award-Winning Artists Honor the Songs of Bill & Gloria Gaither
Rating: 4 Stars
I have to admit when I heard this recording was coming out, I kind of rolled my eyes. These types of recordings don’t always translate well, but I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the music. Bill Gaither has always been a champion for others, but he has always been a champion for his own music as well, as there have been innumerable releases of tributes to his and Gloria’s music over the last 50 years or so, many of which he was actually involved in some way or other. With this latest collection, Gaither tapped into the Country Music field, and we have a pretty cohesive recording with a few surprises thrown in to keep things interesting.
The recording kicks off with the honest lyric of “JESUS AND JOHN WAYNE”, which features Alabama along with the Oak Ridge Boys. If a song and artist were meant to be together, this was a match made in Heaven, as Alabama and the Oaks were a perfect fit for this song.
Country superstar Reba McEntire and her sister Susie (also joined by Sonya & Becky Isaacs) do a beautiful job with their version merging the Gaither classics, “HE TOUCHED ME” and “SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL”, and it was a beautiful contrast from the first song.
In a very unique move, Josh Turner turns in an upbeat rendition of the reflective classic, “GOING HOME”. I have to admit, though I prefer the more traditional type of delivery of the song, I really like what Josh did with this arrangement and it’s a highlight of the recording. This was one of the nice surprises I alluded to earlier.
Jamey Johnson, with Allison Krauss assisting on strings, turns in a nice genuine performance on one of my personal favorite Gaither classics, “IT WON’T RAIN ALWAYS”, before Ronnie Dunn (Brooks and Dunn) gives a soulful performance on one of the Gaither’s best-known songs, “BECAUSE HE LIVES”. Both men really do a great job with their own interpretations of these classic tunes, as they straddle the line of remaining true to the spirit of the song while making these unique performances.
Another Ronnie (Ronnie Milsap) picks up the tempo as he sings “I JUST FEEL LIKE SOMETHING GOOD IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN”, which is probably the weakest track on this recording. I am a big Ronnie Milsap fan, but I just don’t think the song was a good match for him, and would like to have heard him tackle something with a bit more feeling and emotion.
Lee Ann Womack is featured next on another one of my all-time favorite Gaither classics, “GENTLE SHEPHERD” before Bluegrass sensation, The SteelDrivers, turn in an excellent performance on the song, “I BELIEVE IN A HILL CALLED MOUNT CALVARY”. This is truly one of the highlights of the recording as they really do a great job with this song.
One of my favorite country vocalists, Hillary Scott, along with the Scott Family, turn in a tender rendition of another of my favorite Gaither songs, “THERE’S JUST SOMETHING ABOUT THAT NAME”, which also features the recitation by Gloria Gaither.
CeCe Winans winds things up with a powerful performance on “THE CENTER OF MY JOY”. While CeCe’s music transcends multiple genres, it just seemed a bit odd to include this on what appears to be mostly a country-sounding tribute to the songs of Bill and Gloria Gaither. With that said, it’s an awesome performance, and made sense to put it as the last song of the recording.
This is a really nice listen and a bit of a departure from the norm. It’s not an earth-shattering recording, but it does give some very good alternate versions of some of our favorite Gaither tunes. It was very well produced and will likely turn some ears to our genre as fans of these artists hear these songs and seek out similar music.
Personal favorites include “Jesus and John Wayne”, “Going Home”, “It Won’t Rain Always”, “Gentle Shepherd”, “I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary” and “The Center of My Joy”.