Rating: 5 stars
Producer: Gerald Wolfe
Label: Independent Release
Song titles: Don’t Try To Tell Me; Tell Me The Story of Jesus; New Wine; Land of Living; Whosoever Will; I’ve Got A Love; He Is Mine; On A Journey; There Is A River; Happy Tracks
When the Statement of Faith trio disbanded earlier this year after group founder Jacob Kitson’s departure, two of the members, baritone David Mann and lead Joe Kitson, teamed up with tenor TJ Evans to reorganize as Promise. Kitson soon left, however, and Mann and Evans called their mutual friend James Bell to fill the tenor spot as Evans moved down to lead. With the release of the trio’s debut project, the Southern Gospel music world gets a formal introduction to Promise.
This CD, produced by Gerald Wolfe, features ten Greater Vision songs from the 90s. Wolfe provided the original tracks to the group, and thankfully, they are all songs that haven’t been re-recorded to death. The real question is whether or not the trio is relying so heavily on the Greater Vision influence that they themselves are just becoming a “lesser Greater Vision,” so to speak. When a group does a project of this nature, they run the risk of producing copied versions of the earlier recordings that may or may not stack up. The fact that this is the group’s first project also gives them the challenge of defining their sound, and the combination of these factors makes for a tricky musical situation. Has Promise avoided the pitfall of becoming “GV Lite?”
The answer, thankfully, is yes.
While the tracks are indeed the ones used in the original versions, the singers deliver the songs in a way that very much makes them their own. To illustrate this, I’ll use one of the better known songs on the project, “He Is Mine.” On this song especially, the group will undoubtedly be held under close scrutiny because of the song’s popularity when it came out, and Mark Trammell’s great performance of it. While Mann has drawn comparisons to Trammell from a lot of bloggers and readers in recent months, he does not deliberately go for a Trammell-esque delivery, instead opting to put his own nuances into the song. On the final chorus, the group sings it pretty straightforward until the last notes, when the tenor takes it up, rather than giving the standout to the baritone as in the original. Little differences like that show up all throughout this project, and the versions stand on their own. Other highlights include TJ Evans’ take on a Gerald Wolfe signature, “Land of Living,” and James Bell singing “Whosoever Will.”
I know this seems like an awfully positive, optimistic review for a group’s first project, but honestly, there’s really nothing to complain about. You would be hard pressed to believe that this trio is entering their third month of existence with the blend that they possess. I’m sure it helps that they sang together in college, but there are enough years in between that it would be like starting over now. Whatever the case may be, the fact remains that the voices “click,” and the result is a project of covers that doesn’t sound like a project of covers. To use a horrible pun, Promise shows great promise with this first project. Time will tell whether a collection of original songs will continue their upward trend, but for now, they have a lot of things going for them and have a lot to be proud of here. Promise’s self-titled debut receives 5 stars.