Some time ago I did a half-review of an EP by a new group called Declaration who’s been appearing with the Booth Brothers in concert. Some weeks ago, group owner and baritone Jake Sammons sent me the mastered tracks from the full project. I am only now getting around to doing a review.
(Note: Some material from this review overlaps with the EP review.)
1. Come to the Water: Mosie Lister gave Declaration the first cut on this mellow song of invitation. This has made a good opening number for the group.
2. Too Near Home: Classic convention fare, originally done by the Happy Goodmans. Declaration handles it ably.
3. I Call it Home: After listening to the entire project, I still say this Squire Parsons tune is the clear stand-out. The song itself is gorgeous, and Jake Sammons (who should remind listeners strongly of Ronnie Booth), turns in the project’s strongest vocal performance. Even though he is officially the baritone singer for the group, I believe he could easily shift to lead. This number is worthy of the Booth Brothers.
4. In Good Hands: Lead singer Kasey Kemp carries the title track, a pleasant, country-flavored word of encouragement.
5. I Can’t Even Walk: This song is a little over-done, but Joshua Horrell does an enjoyable and enthusiastic cover of it. It suits his voice.
6. Try a Little Kindness: Tossing a little old, sappy country into the mix—a fun song, even if the lyric is rather weak.
7. I’d Still Walk With Jesus: Sammons returns, still channeling his inner Ronnie Booth. This song has a classic swing to it. The lyrics are a bit of a head-scratcher for me though. The chorus says “And if there were no heaven for me when I die, I’d still walk with Jesus here in this life.” Yet… supposing for a moment that there really were no eternal paradise, wouldn’t that take away the whole point of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which was to give us everlasting life? Something to think about.
8. The Perfect Rose: Josh Horrell turns in a silky-smooth performance on this pretty tune I don’t recognize. Since I can’t find it anywhere else, I’m going to assume it’s new. [Edit: The actual title is "Where Flowers Bloom," and it is NOT the Dottie Rambo song. For some reason my copy did not have the real title.] Both the lyrics and the melody are sweetly crafted. This is the second-best song on the project behind “I Call it Home.”
9. I’ve Got a Reservation: A Squire Parsons heaven song—fun snappy little piece.
10. I Know He Loves Me: Horrell takes the lead on this well-crafted closing number, I’m presuming another new song. [Edit: Jake later told me that it was co-written by him and Jim Brady.] Yet it feels like it’s been around for a while. I’ll say this is my third favorite on the project.
Sammons has said that Declaration wants this project to feel “like a handshake.” Meaning it’s not intended to “wow” people, but just to serve as a warm introduction to the group (though they have already recorded two projects, but this is their first mainstream release).The songs were largely selected for the moments they needed in their live show. There’s a good balance of slower and up-tempo songs, but the project as a whole retains a very mellow feel. It makes for a similar listening experience to one of the Booth Brothers’ old 90s projects. However, their live shows are more varied since they have several albums to draw from. Hence, they can’t be gauged by this album alone.
Vocally, this group shows promise. Kemp gives the group a pleasant and distinctive voice, Sammons is the glue that holds them together, and Horrell brings an endearing, youthful sound to the blend. With some good training he could blossom even further.
Declaration already has the sound. Now they just need more songs. Meanwhile, I expect this is far from the last we will hear of them.
Review copy provided.