Producer: Jason Kyle Saetveit
I discovered Selah around 2005 or 2006 and have been a rabid fan ever since. I have continued to be floored by the fact that the Southern Gospel industry has never really paid much attention to them, as their music would absolutely fit in our genre. This year marks the groups’ 25th anniversary, and to celebrate that milestone, they released this latest collection of mostly classic hymns. They come full-circle with how they started, as their very first recording was a collection of mostly hymns, and that recording still ranks as one of my all-time favorite hymn albums. Also, with this latest release, they went back to the basics with simple instrumentation, as most of the songs have just piano/keyboard accompaniment, with a few other embellishments thrown in on a few songs.
With its haunting simple intro on the violin, Amy beautifully sings, “FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH”, before we transition into “THIS IS MY FATHER’S WORLD”, which features both Allan and Todd, as well as Amy. This is a perfect blending of songs and is the perfect way to set off this collection of timeless songs.
Allan and Todd do an excellent job on the ageless Fannie Crosby classic, “BLESSED ASSURANCE” before the tempo picks up for a really funky version of “PUT YOUR HAND IN THE HAND”, which features Todd. This is one of two songs where they have a bit more accompaniment than the rest of the songs, and it’s a nice departure and gives the recording excellent variety.
Slowing things back down, we come to a tender rendition of the time-honored classic, “PRECIOUS MEMORIES”. With just piano accompaniment along with some nice dobro accents, the nostalgic feel of the song fits Allan like a glove as he thoughtfully delivers each line of this cherished hymn.
Amy steps back up to sing “SWEET HOUR OF PRAYER” before Selah pays tribute to the songs of Twila Paris with the “TWILA PARIS MEDLEY”, which features the classic tunes “We Will Glorify”, “We Bow Down”, “He is Exalted” and “Lamb of God”. Twila’s songs were an integral part of the early Praise & Worship music and her songs have been widely accepted in the mainstream church, so it’s appropriate that Selah pays tribute with these wonderful songs.
With piano along with some organ and dobro accents, Todd takes the lead on one of my personal favorite hymns, “OH, HOW I LOVE JESUS”. Giving the song a bit of a soulful touch, it’s a highlight of the recording before Todd is featured again on the Imperials classic, “PRAISE THE LORD”. While I wouldn’t technically consider this a hymn, it fits here and is a great inclusion, especially given Todd is a big fan of Russ Taff (in fact, Russ was a guest vocalist several years ago on an earlier Selah recording when he joined Todd singing “Were You There”).
Amy does a great job singing “ROCK OF AGES” before Allan steps back up to sing “STAND BY ME”. With just a synthesizer very lightly playing string chords in the background, it’s a very simple arrangement, but very appropriate for the song and it fits Allan perfectly, before Todd turns in a masterful performance on one of the most well-loved hymns of all time, “THE LOVE OF GOD”. This is one of the most powerful and poignant lyric ever penned and I was glad to see it included on this recording.
“WHAT WONDEROUS LOVE IS THIS” is the only song on this recording that I was not familiar with, but Allan and Todd do a great job with the song before the recording closes out with “WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN”. The tempo starts off slow, but soon business picks up by the second verse. Before the song is over, drums kick in and with Amy wailing in the background, it becomes a really fun track, and one of the highlights of the recording, ending the recording on a great note!
Hymn recordings can be very tricky…I find many hymn recordings to be very boring, and many artists struggle with either being overly traditional or over arranging them. Selah has proven that they know how to respectfully deliver these hymns with fresh arrangements, while remaining true to each song. It’s a classy recording from beginning to end, and while I don’t think this is their greatest recording (“You Amaze Us” still remains my measuring stick for Selah), it’s a truly wonderful piece of work honoring these magnificent hymns, while also honoring their own legacy of 25 faithful years!