CD Review: Measure of Grace, by The Taylors

Measure of Grace

Measure of Grace is young family group The Taylors’ debut release on Ernie Haase and Wayne Haun’s label Stowtown Records. The fresh-faced foursome is continuing Stowtown’s recent trend of putting family groups on their roster. From left to right, they are Suzanne, Christopher, Leslie and Jonathan. Stylistically, they can evoke the Collingsworth Family, the Easters, or the Hoppers while still retaining their own identity. Now they’ve enlisted the talents of some of the best songwriters in the business (Haun, Lindsey, Jim & Melissa Brady and more) for an all-new collection of songs. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on this upcoming offering:

Likes

*Opening track “I’m Committed to You Lord” is a highlight right out of the gate from Wayne Haun and Jeff Bumgardner. Very classy but kind of kickin’ inspo in the vein of the Collingsworths’ “I Could Never Praise Him Enough.”

*Leslie Taylor is featured on highlight “I Tremble.” Wayne Haun and Joel Lindsey once again deliver a blissfully melodic, B-3 Hammond drizzled, richly theological meditation on worship and the cross. (And I just realized that I kind of made it sound like an ice cream sundae. Oh well, food analogies have always been my thing.) With the exception of one cringey line, which I’ve marched out and shot under “Dislikes,” this is the best song on the album.

Let me not forget this temple

It’s transformed into a throne room

And through your name, my soul is ushered in

So let me come to you in wonder

Let my heart still pound like thunder

At the way your grace has found me once again

*Speaking of Leslie, she’s the glue that holds the group together vocally. Her rich country tone compares favorably with Sheri Easter. Though as Jonathan proves on verse 2 of this live cover of “I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary” (minus Leslie in person, though her high harmonies are on the track), he’s not half bad-looking either.

*I was pleased to see them reviving the Sonya Isaacs-penned “He’s My Guide” from Ernie Haase & Signature Sound’s Get Away Jordan. Here it gets a bluegrass treatment that suits the young voices very well.

* Rachel McCutcheon’s new big ballad “The Cross is Calling” is another standout track. It’s one of the most Collingsworthish of the bunch stylistically, and it boasts some fine lyrics:

To every tribe and tongue

The ancient and the young

The welcome is for whosoever will

To all who will believe

To all who will receive

The grace that flows from old Golgotha’s hill…

*New convention songs are a rarity, but a good new convention song is a delight. Lyn Rowell and Amy Lewis have conspired to give the Taylors just that with “Heaven is Ready (And Waiting For Me).”

*Most of the songs are brand new. For a young group, that’s impressive and refreshing. As I just noted, even the most conventional of the songs is actually a new-old soundalike.

Dislikes

* “He Goes Before Me” has a decent chorus, but the verse melody is repetitive and scans awkwardly with the lyrics in a few places. (Example: “I am confident.”)

* The otherwise stand-out track “I Tremble” is marred only by this clunker couplet: “And I’m filled with such emotion/At your mercy and devotion.” No, no, no! Just say no! (Not that it’s “I’ll learn to see another’s point of view” level of awful, mind you, but still… wags finger at Wayne or Joel, whichever one decided that line was a good idea.)

* “That Will Be Heaven To Me” is a pretty heaven ballad, but the deliberate tempo and stock lyrics leave me unable to help comparing it to the Cathedrals’ much more vivid and effective “I Want To See Jesus” along the same lines.

* Suzanne and Christopher are great blenders who hold up their half of the group capably, but their individual step-outs lack the depth and trained oomph (does that phrase even make sense— “trained oomph?”) of their sibling counterparts. However, it may be unfair to compare Christopher to his brother, since Jonathan has nine years at the Steve Hurst School of Music under his belt.

Final thoughts: You may not be too familiar with this young group yet, but you will be soon! In terms of song selection alone, to be honest, they’re already on their way to beating the Collingsworths, even if they lack that family’s freakishly preternatural vocal polish. Enthusiastic, earnest, talented young performers like these assure me the future of southern gospel is in good hands. Pick up your own copy of this project from all the usual outlets on June 10, 2014. Here is a video of them performing the opening track live:

Here’s a set of preview clips for each track:

CD Rating: 4 stars

Review copy provided. A positive review was not required.

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7 Comments

Filed under 4 star, CD Reviews

7 responses to “CD Review: Measure of Grace, by The Taylors

  1. “And I’m filled with such emotion/At your mercy and devotion”

    *shrugs* As a songwriter – that line works. I’m not sure what the problem is…

    • That line is a songwriter? :D (Sorry… misplaced modifier…)

      It’s hard to describe, but if you’ve ever seen _The Black Stallion_, and you remember that scene where the highschool girl is reciting the poem she wrote about the boy and his horse—this line is kind of like that. The word “emotion” just takes the quality of the poetry down a peg because it feels saccharine/overwrought/cheap.

      • The emotion is implied in a song like that. You don’t have to say positive emotions. It’s implied that the emotion is a happy, sweet one.

        As for devotion – Christ was/is devoted to all of mankind – he was devoted to saving us. He gave His life. I can’t think of any other strong love and devotion than that.

        Here is dictionary.com’s definition of “Devotion”:

        de·vo·tion [dih-voh-shuhn] Show IPA
        noun
        1.
        profound dedication; consecration.
        2.
        earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.
        3.
        an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc.: the devotion of one’s wealth and time to scientific advancement.
        4.
        Often, devotions. Ecclesiastical . religious observance or worship; a form of prayer or worship for special use.

        So yes, Christ fits that definitely. We were his cause. We were his purpose.

        And as far as “screaming rewrite”: go ahead. I’ll determine if it’s better or not. ;)

      • How about if I give you three, and you can pick your favorite?

        Lord it’s with an honest reverence
        That I come into your presence,
        Whispering the name that calms all fear.
        And I find no condemnation
        In the gift of your salvation.
        To think that you would come and meet me here!

        ***

        Lord it’s with an honest reverence
        That I come into your presence,
        Whispering the name that calms all fear.
        You alone who can restore me,
        Who became a servant for me,
        To think that you would come and meet me here!

        ***

        Lord it’s with an honest reverence
        That I come into your presence,
        Whispering the name that calms all fear.
        There is nothing I can offer,
        I the guilty, I the scoffer.
        To think that you would come and meet me here!

      • However, even if I weren’t able to re-write it myself, I don’t believe that means I should refrain from critiquing sloppy writing. Simon Cowell can’t sing a note, but everyone has to admit that he can sift the wheat from the chaff when it comes to vocal talent.

        Furthermore, language should be precise regardless. Precise writing doesn’t rely on what’s “implied.” Just like if you were writing a novel, you wouldn’t say “And Joni was filled with such emotion,” even if the context would tell you whether it should be positive or negative. You should still specify the emotion—is it excitement or solemn joy, fear or apprehension, etc., etc.?

        But besides all that, “happy” and “sweet” are not the words I would reach for when imagining what it’s like to be in the presence of God anyway. Recall that God told Moses to look away when He passed by because otherwise it would… uh, kill him. Even angels, who are merely somewhat higher than man in the natural order, have to preface their message with “Fear not” whenever they show up in the Bible. If there’s anyone who can stand in God’s presence without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or just plain silly. Fortunately, this song eventually does catch on to that with the main hook. However, the very fact that the song’s main conceit is the fear of God makes that line stick out all the more awkwardly with its vague sentimentalism.

    • Lydia

      Just a few things about that line: First of all, *what* emotion? The phrase “such emotion” is unclear. Emotions aren’t even especially positive or enjoyable in and of themselves. Anger and fear are emotions, for example. So the line makes it sound like “being filled with such emotion” is automatically this wonderful thing, which is sentimentalism. Second, “devotion,” is an odd thing to attribute to Christ. *We* are supposed to be devoted to *Him*. What exactly does it mean to say that He is devoted to us? Makes it sound like He follows us around all the time wanting to serve us. Third, there is the clunky rhyme. C.S. Lewis once wrote to an aspiring poet that a particular couplet sounded to Lewis like

      “A pound of that cheese and an ounce of that butter,”
      Aeneas replied with his usual stutter.

      The “emotion/devotion” rhyme has that same galloping, and hence unserious, rhythm, and applying it to a serious subject makes one want to smile, which isn’t the intended effect of the couplet.

      • Sentimentalism—exactly the word I was looking for, thanks Lydia. Not very muscular, if I can put it that way. And Lewis’s quote about the “Aeneas” rhyme is the same kind of thing I was indicating with my reference to the highschooler’s poem in Black Stallion: “They slept in the sand and played in the ocean/And rode over the island in a singular motion.” Of course there it’s deliberately designed to be cringey and sophomoric.

        The bit about ascribing “devotion” to Jesus (rather than us, which is more typical) hadn’t even occurred to me, but you’re right, that’s just off as well. The whole line really screams “Rewrite!”

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