Rating: 5 stars
Producer: Jeff Collins
Label: Horizon Records
Song titles: Back To Grace; Oh What A Hallelujah Day; I Knew It Was Him; That’s All I Need; Grace Says; Ordinary Man; I Can Hardly Wait; If Not For the Love of Christ; After the Sunrise; Loving Shepherd Gracious God
The Kingsmen have opened up an interesting chapter in their history during the past few years. After several lineup changes that ended up dissolving the Kingsmen Band and left the group with a new tenor (Harold Reed), and baritone (Bryan Hutson), the group released When God Ran, a project that was arguably the best that they had released in years, according to several critics. Not long after, the group hired young pianist Cody McVey, and the next mainline release, Missing People, was a good project, but in this blogger’s humble opinion, didn’t quite reach the same level as it’s predecessor.
Since that time, another lineup change has happened with the departure of lead singer Phillip Hughes, which moved Bryan Hutson to the lead position and brought in former Kingsmen/Carolina Boys lead Randy Crawford in to fill the baritone spot. The obvious question is this: what can this version of The Kingsmen bring to the table?
The group wastes no time in welcoming Crawford back into the lineup, as the first track of the project features him. An upbeat Joseph Habedank/Matthew Holt collaboration first heard on Statement of Faith’s debut project, “Back To Grace” sounds made for Crawford’s voice. Likewise, the other Statement of Faith cover, “I Knew It Was Him,” (written by the same team, coincidentally), fits Harold Reed like a glove. The other covers include an Oak Ridge Boys/Triumphant Quartet tune (“If Not For The Love Of Christ”) and a convention song (“After The Sunrise”). The nice thing about the majority of these covers is that they don’t sound like they were taken from another group. Rather, the group does a fine job of making them their own, particularly the Habedank/Holt tunes.
Other highlights of the project include the title track, which once again features Crawford and could easily become a career song for both he and the Kingsmen, and “Ordinary Man,” which is a progressive tune that puts Bryan Hutson out front. The final track, “Loving Shepherd Gracious God,” has gotten a lot of attention from several bloggers, and features what probably the smoothest sound collectively from the group in quite a while.
To sum it all up, the rehiring of Randy Crawford has created a sound for The Kingsmen that is thick, powerful, and smooth, all rolled into one, and this project does exactly what it’s supposed to do in the way of taking hold of that sound and showcasing it. While some of the other reviews I’ve read have criticized the project for being “musically schizophrenic,” it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. The styles on the CD do tend to jump around from track to track, but I’m of the school of thought that, as long as it doesn’t go out in left field at every turn, it makes for a fun listening experience; the listener can be continually surprised.
With a group dynamic and song selection that is arguably one of the best the group has had to date, there’s not one thing I would throw out of this project if given the chance. Grace Says receives 5 stars.