After a Dove award-winning solo debut, plus another table project, EHSS baritone Doug Anderson is back to treat his fans with a collection of all-new songs. The better part of them are contributed by Wayne Haun and/or Joel Lindsey, and predictably these are among the best songs on the album. As per usual, click on to read my thoughts in candid Likes/Dislikes format.
* First of all, awesome cover. That’s one sweet car.
* Album best cut “Yes I Will” (was I saying something about Haun and Lindsey?) is an absolutely delicious, slow-burning gospel anthem. Anderson lets his soul chops shine as the choir and B-3 Hammond simmer in the background.
* “Love With Open Arms” pleasantly recalls some of Steven Curtis Chapman’s lighter, radio-friendly fare. Nothing too deep, but a smartly crafted chorus and a fresh banjo hook draw the listener in.
* The melody on “Moment By Moment Grace” is quite pretty, especially the chorus.
* “Love Covered My Sin” is the most traditional-sounding country/gospel track, sounding like something Barry Rowland & Deliverance might cover.
* The entire EHSS gang backs Doug up on a groovy cover of Dolly Parton’s “The Seeker.” Even on my first skim through the project, when I wasn’t listening that carefully to the tracks, this one caught and held my attention. And of course, I’d rather hear Doug sing it than Dolly any day!
* Haun and Lindsey’s “I’ll Be There With You” may lack the vivid urgency of “I Will Find You Again,” “Celebrate Me Home,” or “Sometimes I Wonder,” but it’s a solid heaven ballad. (Hey, cut the guys a little slack—we can’t expect great writers to top themselves on every contribution to a stock topic.)
* Joel Lindsey’s “How ‘Bout You” closes the album on a surprisingly sad, dark note. Which is great. (I know, I’m like the little kid in The Princess Bride: “Murdered by pirates is good!”) Anyway, the sweet melody belies the pain in the lyrics, about a man who’s lost his wife
and is battling alcoholism. [Edit: Thanks to Joel Lindsey for clarifying that the "shattered glass" in Verse One is actually just water, not alcohol. Thanks also for sharing the personal story behind this song! Originally, it was about Joel's loss of his mother. However, I think many people could take the song to heart as they deal with the loss of their own loved ones.] It’s not entirely clear whether he lost her through death or divorce. The line “I talk on the phone, try not to be alone” might hint at the latter, but either interpretation could work. It made me wonder how a rougher, more world-weary voice than Doug’s would interpret it.
I saw my family last night for dinner
They all said I look just fine, a little thinner
I smiled ‘cuz I didn’t know what else to do
Me, I’m doing fine
Me, I just need time
Me, I’m doing fine
How ’bout you?
* If “Love With Open Arms” reminded me why I liked CCM radio, “God Works” reminded me why I started switching channels. The melody feels like it’s trapped within a four-note range (probably because it is), the lyrics are cliched, and Doug’s voice isn’t given room to breathe. Explore the space, people! I could hardly believe this one had a co-credit from Tony Wood. This is me giving Tony the icy stare.
* “I Need You More” has a good hook, but the second verse spoils it with the line that God “needs me.” Of course, the intent is to show with the chorus that we need God more, but it’s already mistaken to state that God “needs” us at all. Sorry everyone, but I’m pretty sure the Trinity was doing all right without us. God chose to create us because he wanted to, he sent Jesus to die for us because he wanted to, and he uses us to do His will because he wants to. He could just as well have not created us, allowed us to self-destruct in our sin, or used some other person to do His will. This whole idea that God “needs” or “can’t live without” us is common, but it’s a misleading picture of God.
* “Sundays Are Made For These” was already practically a solo vehicle for Doug on Dream On. The song is fine, but did we need another version filling a slot that could have made room for something fresh?
* There’s some sloppy grammar on the first line of “I’ll Be There With You” (“There were many uphill struggles I thought I couldn’t climb”). This makes “struggles” the object of “climb,” but one doesn’t climb a struggle. One climbs a hill, or walks through a struggle. The writers need to make up their minds.
Bottom line: Fans of Doug’s first album will get exactly what they are expecting out of this album: a fun blend of upbeat country, traditional gospel and contemporary tracks. Many of the songs fill similar slots to the songs on that project (compare “The Seeker” with “Only Here for a Little While,” “Sundays Are Made” with “Dreamin’ Wide Awake,” and so forth). In many ways, this is a very good thing. Doug’s voice is as versatile and ageless as ever. You’re guaranteed at least several very memorable songs. You’re certainly guaranteed a very polished production. At the same time, it doesn’t break much new ground. Then again, perhaps it didn’t need to.
Prime cuts: “Yes I Will,” “The Seeker,” “How ‘Bout You”
Album rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided. A positive review was not required.