Borrowing: Farther Than Your Grace Can Reach

A while ago, I introduced a new series which at the time I was calling “the reverse crossover,” where I looked at songs from other genres that could work well in the hands of a southern gospel group/singer. After thinking about it, I decided to change the name of the series to “borrowing,” because it’s snappier and cleaner.  Today I bring you a second installment.

After leaving the Gaither Vocal Band, Jonathan Pierce had a temporarily successful solo career in CCM. However, he eventually disappeared from the music scene to pursue interior design. It’s a pity he didn’t stick around and make more music, because he is one of the most gifted tenors I’ve ever heard. Wes Hampton today has been compared with Jonathan and comes close to matching his sound, though I think Jonathan’s timbre was a touch heavier.

I didn’t get into all of Jonathan’s solo stuff, but one song he recorded was a major standout. It’s called “Farther Than Your Grace Can Reach,” and it was played quite a bit on my local CCM station back when they were still playing good music. Written by Connie Harrington and Steve Siler, it is a powerful and now largely forgotten ballad that deserves to be revived. The song is quiet and piano-led, with convicting lyrics delivered in the first person by a man who is crying out to God for mercy. He knows that he is a sinner, knows that he doesn’t deserve God’s grace, and yet he also realizes that nothing he will ever do can place him beyond the reach of that grace:

No fault, no wrong, no dark of night
Can hide me from your eyes
And I cannot fall or climb
Farther than your grace can reach

Musically, the song takes a couple of surprising dynamic twists. For the bridge, the simple phrase “Rock of ages, cleft for me” is given an unexpected and soaring delivery before quickly returning to a moving final verse:

God bless us all, the weak and weary
Captives of our flesh and blood
Our only freedom is the refuge
Of your love

The final chorus is powerful, with a sudden key-change that makes for a superb climax. Jonathan’s magnificent range is on full display with this piece, and he uses absolutely no head tone. Listen:

I think this could work splendidly in a southern gospel setting. The question is, who should do it? My first thought was actually Riley Clark. Tribute Quartet could make it a Riley feature and do a fine job with it. Another thought was Wes Hampton, who would be a natural fit for the song given his similarity to Jonathan. (If Wes ever did another solo album, this would be a standout cut, for sure.)

But the one I finally settled on was Gus Gaches. Gus is one of the brightest tenor talents on the road today, and his voice would fit this song like a glove. Legacy Five should pick this one up and add it to their repertoire. I believe that if they did, it could become huge for them.

What do you think?

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21 Comments

Filed under Borrowing, Songs

21 responses to “Borrowing: Farther Than Your Grace Can Reach

  1. Gaithermusicaddict

    I think David Phelps would nail it.

  2. quartet-man

    I haven’t heard a lot of his solo stuff yet (I do own most of all of his solo stuff, but not sure how much I have listened to), but one E radio on the radio that I loved (and probably caused to me to buy one of his CDs) is the song “One Love”.

    • I hadn’t heard that one before. I looked it up. Not a bad lyric, though it lapses into a bit of “We Are the World-ism” here and there. “If every one of us will join together, love as one…” “Make a difference…” etc. That sort of stuff always gets my head nodding. As in “wake me when it’s over” nodding, not affirmative nodding. ;-)

      I don’t really know why, but the music and vocals make me think of Billy Joel.

    • quartet-man

      I agree that those lyrics can be associated with things that are less than great (as can songs like We Will Stand perhaps to a lesser degree). Sorry about the typos above. I am about over Firefox. I like some of the extensions and keep using it, but it keeps increasing in memory usage until characters slow down and overlap when I am typing. I would use Chrome for some stuff, but am not sure since Google has such control over private info and so many aspects of our lives.

      • That’s odd. I have Firefox and don’t have that problem.

      • quartet-man

        Well, I don’t at church where I have a lot more memory. Basically this keeps growing in memory usage until I restart it. I have seen it get up to 900,000 K when I go to the task manager. Check this out:

        http://www.pcmech.com/article/live-example-of-firefox-4-memory-problems/

      • That’s alarming! I’ll have to keep an eye out for this. My mother has been struggling with the same problem recently. I guess I just have more RAM. But this is something someone should be looking into.

      • Firefox periodically does that to me, and my laptop was new from Dell just two years ago… I don’t remember the specs, but they were good. It just freezes up, and I have to restart it in Task Manager. On the other hand, using it on this old, slow computer at work, I rarely (if ever) have that problem. It seems to happen randomly.

      • quartet-man

        I have Firefox crash on me (not sure why), but I haven’t had the memory issue cause my computer to crash yet. It just drags and when I type the characters overlap. Basically the letters don’t show up right away and the letters I am currently typing get inserted where the others should and then again where they are supposed to.

      • Okay, so I said I didn’t have that problem. Famous last words: Now I’m suddenly starting to run into it.

        ANY-way, back on topic everybody. Further Firefox grumblings should be moved to my only open thread. (Kidding. ;-) )

  3. quartet-man

    *most or all.

  4. Pierce did have a dynamite voice. But given Penrod’s range as well, there wasn’t much separation between the “tenor” and “lead”. Pierce has always been sort of a mystery to me in the Christian music industry.

    • Likewise. A great talent that somehow always seemed under-used, then just left the scene.

    • quartet-man

      I always thought he belonged more in the lead position. It may have been a bad day, but I heard him singing tenor and he didn’t get as high or as high as easily as English did. In fact, I think he was singing tenor over English on “I Bowed on My Knees” in the clip I am thinking of. I did really like the CDs he was on though..

      • He was definitely low for an SG tenor, which has its pros and cons. Myself, I like the extra thickness his voice had, because it makes it easier to listen to. But it’s an interesting question whether he really had a bigger range than Penrod or English (in his heyday).

  5. Nate Stainbrook

    Pierce was one of the more underrated tenors/singers in the Christian music scene… I for one would love to see him return to SG; but I don’t ever see that happening!

    I love the pick for Gus to sing this song with L5… He told me that they may start pushing the edge on some upcoming albums, so who knows they might just pick this one up! Another tenor that I believe could do a good job with this song would be Anthony Facello of Beyond the Ashes, and this style of song is really right in their wheelhouse.

  6. Nate Stainbrook

    You’re welcome! :)

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