Rating: 4 stars
Producers: Shane Dunlap & N’Harmony
1. Step Into The Water – The album opens up with a new arrangement of The Cathedrals’ classic song. The group breathes new life into it, giving it a more country sound, speeding up the tempo a tad, and shedding the stand-out bass lines on the chorus. The last change is not as disappointing as one might think, and this track is still good.
2. Old Time Religion – This old song takes the piano-and-vocals approach. The solo features are baritone Chris Whitaker, lead Shane Dunlap, and tenor Brent Mitchell, respectively. Bass singer Will Van Wyngarden gets short solo lines on the chorus. Nothing fancy about this track, but it will appeal to fans of the old style of Southern Gospel singing.
3. The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power – The group covers a song that was also featured on Brian Free & Assurance’s Timeless Hymns & Classics Volume II project. Chris Whitaker’s great range is displayed here and he turns in a fine performance. This version of the song has a slight edge of BFA’s version in that it does not feature “canned” instruments at all; the horns on BFA’s version sounded somewhat fake.
4. He Loves Me – Brent Mitchell gets his first true solo feature of the project here. This song was written by George Amon Webster and orginally recorded by The Cathedrals when he was their baritone. My all-time favorite version of this song is Greater Vision & Eric Bennett’s version on GV’s Quartets project. This arrangement differs from both in that it is a tenor feature. Mitchell’s voice fits the song well, and it comes at a close second to my preferred version.
5. Run On – Shane Dunlap steps out front for this bluegrassy song. This sounds to me like a faster, slightly different arrangement of Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” that was a single off of his posthumous American V: A Hundred Highways. The groups pulls off this sound pretty well.
6. It Is Well – This is another song on the project to feature just piano and vocals, at least until the chorus when some light accompaniment comes in. I thought that Chris Whitaker’s range was impressive on “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power,” but he displays it much more here. This is the first time I’ve heard a baritone featured on this song, and it exceeded my expectations.
7. I Can See The Hand – This is possibly my favorite song on this project. The group takes the song and gives it more life than The Cathedrals version, picking up the tempo a bit. The key change pushes Brent Mitchell to some high notes. Mitchell is by no means Danny Funderburk, and niether does he claim to be. He turns in a good vocal here, and bass Will Van Wyngarden is none too shabby in his bass part here either. Very well done track.
8. Lord Feed Your Children – Just piano and vocals here for this Shane Dunlap feature. This is a good arrangement; I’ve never been as crazy about the song as most people, but the guys sing it well.
9. Life Will Be Sweeter – This track is really no different than Mercy’s Mark’s arrangement on their Southern Selections Volume Two project. It’s almost a carbon copy, right down to the piano. This is an OK track besides that fact.
10. Beulah Land – A short, acappella version of the chorus of this Squire Parsons classic shows that the guys have great harmony. My only complaint is that it wasn’t longer (it clocks in at 58 seconds).
Final Thoughts: The revived version of N’Harmony that Shane Dunlap has built has made a fine “debut” project. It shows that they have the potential to be one of the genre’s top quartets. Brent Mitchell holds down his tenor part well, the similarities in Shane Dunlap and Chris Whitaker’s voice (not to mention the fact that both have impressive ranges!) make for some tight harmony, and Will Van Wyngarden is a young bass who’s style is akin to Chris West or Christian Davis.
The guys do a great job of revamping classic songs here, and I am anticipating future, original material from this young group.