This summer (2011) the Kingsmen Quartet released a brand new project entitled, Grace Says. I’ve always been a big Kingsmen fan, and have oodles of their projects on my mp3 player! Needless to say, I was excited to purchase Grace Says and see how it measures up to previous projects. As usual, I was not disappointed! What makes this Cd so special is its ability to relate to every person. No matter who we are, or what we’ve done, we all need God’s grace!
The musical styles and soundtracks on this project can be summed up with one word – variety. You’ll hear songs ranging from traditional four part harmony to progressive/contemporary. Numbers like: Oh, What A Hallelujah Day and After The Sunrise will take you back in time to the sounds of old quartet singing, while Back To Grace and Ordinary Man will push you into tracks with a modern twist. Though some may argue whether variety is good or bad, it’s noteworthy that on this Cd, all of the music was presented well both musically and vocally. The Kingsmen are a talented bunch who can sing all of these styles well.
Lyrically, it is very evident that grace is the theme of this recording. With the exception of the songs resembling the old quartet style, every song on this project has a line about God’s grace in it. So, on this particular review, I’m going to add a “grace line” to the information listed below. If the artists obviously took the time to arrange their project around this theme, it sure is our job to notice it! Some of these quotes will be derived directly from the words of the song, and others will be looked at as a whole, but either way, we will see the theme brought out clearly in the lyrics to these tracks.
On this recording, you will hear vocals from:
Tenor – Harold Reed
Lead – Bryan Hutson
Baritone – Randy Crawford
Bass – Ray Reese
1. Back To Grace
Message: This song is all about knowing no matter how far you’ve fallen from a walk with God, you can always to go back to Him, receive forgiveness and reconcile wrongs. The first verse reaches out to those feeling guilty, right where they are – on the path of resentment, with a mind full of regret that can’t let go of the past. Yet, there is a way back to the Lord…These thoughts lead us into the chorus, which proclaims that you can go back and find grace. You can kneel and pray – you can find forgiveness. “There is always a way back to grace”…no matter how far “gone” you feel. The second verse examines the one who has that flicker of hope, who, though struggling, is re-tracing their steps back to the Lord. I love the thought behind the last two lines: it pictures a shattered life, broken in pieces – and the Lord, standing with His arms open wide, to mend it back together again. The bridge reiterates the fact that not a single person can stray farther than God’s mercy, His voice will always tenderly call you back home.
Grace Line: “There is way back to grace – there is an altar where you can kneel to pray…”
Other Comments: This was the perfect song to start the project with – it’s up-beat, has a great message and introduces the theme for the very start.
2. Oh, What A Hallelujah Day
Feature: All Parts
Message: When the chorus of this quartet number opens, it calls the second coming of Christ a “hallelujah day.” The saints will be taken up to a land far away and earthly struggles will be no more. No tears and no sad goodbyes! – Indeed, that is something to say “hallelujah” about! The first verse paints a picture of the eternity that we have to look forward to: one of singing, shouting, and celebrating, well, you get the picture! When the rapture comes, this is what we’ll sail away to. The second verse continues to list the things that saints will do in that far away country called heaven: we’ll crown Jesus the King forever, gather around His throne and sing His praise, and much, much more!
Grace Line: “God will welcome all His children…” (God can welcome us as sinners saved by grace instead of rejecting us as sinners not covered by the blood of Christ.)
Other Comments: This is one of those new songs that sound old. It still amazes me how songwriters can replicate that old style so flawlessly – this song is a perfect example!
3. I Knew It Was Him
Message: Based off of two well-known stories from the New Testament, this song relates the similarities and differences between their physical healings and our spiritual one. In the first verse we encounter the lady who had the issue of blood for twelve years. This disease made her feel weak and helpless, but not so much that she couldn’t reach out and touch the Savior. Then, with the resounding words of the chorus, she exclaimed, “I am healed, and He is real – He’s more than just a story.” Though so many years were spent looking for answers, this one (and others, as we will see in the following verses) sees that she was wrong and let Christ wash away her sin. Then, and only then, is when we see Him for who He truly is. Our second Bible story is found in the next verse: the death of Jarius’s daughter. We’re introduced to the story with the parents upset and mourning their little girls death, but then Jesus walks in and raises her back to life. Their tears ceased in recognition of the Healer. Without turning to the chorus, the song jumps right into verse three, where we all can agree that, though we’ve never seen Christ like the people in these stories, we can take others to Calvary and share our testimony. Our sickness was not a physical one like theirs, yet, we still needed His healing for our sin. In fact, the bridge says just that! The woman needed a cure, the girl needed a new life – we need both of those, and can only get them by calling on the Name of Christ.
Grace Line: “But I can still take you to the place – where grace broke my chains free…”
Other Comments: This song sort of reminds me of God Saw A Cross. Maybe it’s because it’s a big ballad and features Harold, I don’t know – but it sure is a good one!
4. That’s All I Need
Feature: All four parts and Baritone
Message: After listening to this song many times, I firmly believe that it’s purpose is to encourage the Christian – plain and simple! I say that because of this, the first verse opens with the same thought, “Weary down trodden Believer, I know the burden reliever…” This is none other than Christ our Redeemer, and BFF! The verse continues to tell where such a friend was found – at the foot of the rugged cross. The refrain tells us that Jesus is every single little thing I (and you too) need, and gives some reasons why. For one, He answers when we call, dries our tears, He’s faithful, closer than a brother…what else do we need but Him? I like the opening line for the second verse, it says, “Christian don’t give up trying, mountains were made for climbing.” – Then, relates how Christ walks with us every step of the way. After seeing what He can do first hand, the writer encourages the listener never to doubt Him.
Grace Line: “He’s dried every tear I cry, He answers when I ask why…” (What does this, but grace?)
Other Comments: This up-beat number is bound to have you humming it all day long! That’s probably why it was the first from this project to be sent to radio for the Kingsmen. After seeing it performed live at NQC, I’m convinced that it will do well in concert too!
5. Grace Says
Message: This first verse talks about the struggle between right and wrong that every Believer faces. Deep in our hearts, perfection is the only acceptable trait…and one that seems too far away to grasp. What do we do with the feeling that every day is like a mini exam we have to pass…and though expectations are high, what happens when we don’t do well? I love the question that leads into the chorus, and asks, “What if there’s really only mercy, for those who always do their best?” The chorus personifies grace speaking as a person and answers, “Grace says, ‘Come and rest beside me, I don’t have to be convinced.’” – Throughout the refrain, Grace continues to comfort us with answers to all of the things we worry about. You can’t surprise Grace to the point where you can’t be forgiven, and when you don’t deserve it, Grace will be there for you. In the second verse, Grace points out the people that have been changed by it and how at one point in time, they were just as helpless as each one of us. Continuing, Grace uses examples from our past to confirm the promise that He will never leave us.
Grace Line: “Grace says, ‘I‘ll be here for you.’”
Other Comments: This is the title song of this project and when you hear it you immediately know why! Its message will undoubtedly touch many, many lives.
6. Ordinary Man
Message: “If you knew me at my best, you’d walk away, so unimpressed – cause’ there is nothing special here to see…” These honest, thought provoking words open the first verse, steering the listener to contemplate how our righteousness is indeed, like filthy rags. The next line goes on then, to contrast “our worst,” and how the plague of sin is clearly seen in our lives. We are pretty regular, everyday people – nothing really special. Yet, with Christ living in us, there’s “more that meets the eye.” The chorus then, talks about how the Lord reaches out to the “ordinary.” Though we continue to be the same people, what we have inside changes us. Certainly, if one could speak the language of the heart, it would hear something different – someone sought out by mercy, saved by God’s unconditional love, and living in His grace. Yes, even an “ordinary man” can find a place in the Lord’s designs. Just like the first verse, the second carries the same amount of honest truth. It talks about how one could never trade the peace they have in Christ for anything. Naturally, it would only be a step down – something with less value. I especially like the line that says, “This life in Christ means more to me, than what I’d gain, or who I’d be.” (No commentary necessary on that one!) The rest of the verse relates how grace can be so simple to explain, yet, can render us speechless at the same time. The bridge takes us back to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross ~ you know, if you think of how unusual it would be for a beggar to be given a piece of gold, you’ll begin to grasp how remarkable it is that Christ left perfection (in heaven) to come and save us!
Grace Line: “I am a man who’s saved by love, I am a friend of grace…”
Other Comments: This is quickly becoming my favorite song on the project! I love how the verse’s are packed with truth ~ in the first verse, who we are without Him, and in the second verse, who we are in Him. Amazing contrast!
7. I Can Hardly Wait
Message: This song begins with the chorus, which simply states what the title says, “I can hardly wait to see my Savior!” – When I do, I’ll thank Him personally for all that He’s done: not just His saving grace, but all the blessings received after salvation also. The first verse takes on the persona of making a trip to see family just like you or I would do on a Holiday. The only difference? – This one is to Heaven!…And, it’s almost here! I can almost anticipate the reunions! After another round of the refrain, we jump into the second verse. Yes, I’ve enjoyed this life down here on the earth, however, nothing down here, whether it be joy, learning from mistakes or pressing through trials to victory – nothing will compare with heaven!
Grace Line: “I’ll thank Him for His grace and favor…”
Other Comments: This fun song definitely preserves the old quartet sound we are use to hearing from the Kingsmen. And it’s up-beat message and music will make it irresistible for SGM lovers.
8. If Not For The Love Of Christ
Feature: Baritone and Lead
Message: The theme of this song shows us how the love of God has changed our lives, and ponders what life would be like without it. The first verse questions what our lives would have been like if we had to depend on ourselves and not God. If that were the case, surely our lives would be hollow and without purpose. (Thank the good Lord that with His love, all of that changes!) Another verse takes that thought a little deeper before we reach the chorus. To live a content life, without Him would be a pretend happiness – we could fake it – but when we get to the bottom line, it would just be a mask of joy hiding our greatest need, the truth. What is that truth? The chorus is our answer: the love of Christ. It’s the ultimate treasure – nothing is of more value than it. Insomuch, that we couldn’t imagine life without it. The third verse, takes on a different view of God’s love – what if it didn’t even exist? There would be nothing to pardon our sin, console us through trials, or hope for eternity…if not for the love of Christ.
Grace Line: “I can’t imagine living my life, if not for the love of Christ.” (This line points back to the theme in this way: God’s love for us is what causes Him to have grace towards us.)
Other Comments: Randy and Bryan do an excellent job on this slower number. I love songs where the singers get to share the verses with each other! The lyrics are well written also, using a contrast to help us appreciate what we do have in God’s grace, by suggesting what life would be like if we didn’t have it.
9. After The Sunrise
Message: In Southern Gospel Music, writers find many different ways to describe going to heaven, in this number, J. R. Baxter and Eugene Wright chose to call theirs “after the sunrise.” – The first verse paints a pretty bleak picture of what life on this earth is: the sorrows we encounter, the trials that pressure our lives and the things that seem to bind and hold us captive…but what a glorious thought, that when “the sun rises,” all these things pass like a shadow in the noonday sun! Just like darkness can be associated with suffering and trials, light can be connected with joy and good things. We see this contrast in the chorus: “after the sunrise,” (Christ’s second return), what happens? There will be happiness, glory, singing and joy in seeing the Savior face to face. The second verse continues this comparison of light and darkness: when Jesus comes again, His love will dissolve sin, His light will chase away the shadows – everything will praise Him. After another chorus, we see the invitation to the Gospel given in the third verse. While angels wait in anticipation to make the announcement of His coming, why refuse to surrender your life to Christ? Stop discussing whether or not He is real and just receive Him! His coming is too soon to waste precious time – change your view today!
Grace Line: “After the sunrise, Jesus we’ll see.” (Thinking about what line of this song best portrays grace, this one is definitely it! Without grace, we would not be able to stand in His holy presence.)
Other Comments: I’m glad that Ray was featured on the chorus of this quartet song! His voice is so unique, when you hear it, you just know it’s him! I also liked the way the songwriters used light and darkness to convey the thoughts behind the words. The Bible says that light can’t coexist with darkness ~ what a wonderful picture we have of that in the second verse of this song!
10. Loving Shepherd, Gracious God
Message: This song, showing the Lord as a Shepherd, is written from the “sheep’s” point of view, and meditates on the tenderness and wisdom by which He takes care of His own. The first verse talks about the perfect pasture the Lord leads His sheep by, yet, when the rocks and thistles come, the temptation to roam is still present. The chorus is a simple plea from one of the sheep: the recognition that we fall away so quickly, but also the hope, that He will always search out those who’ve drifted and bring them back home again. The second verse looks forward to the time when we’ll reach our ultimate home – heaven. We acknowledge now, that when that time comes, only a loving God could have lead us to such a place. For He is the One who always lead the way! What a sweet journey!
Grace Line: “When I reach that place that is mine by grace…”
Other Comments: For a project with the theme of grace, there is no better way to finish up the project than with this song! The thought line is perfect! We began the album talking about the “way back to grace” – and end it by singing about the Gracious God who always leads His sheep homeward! Bravo!
“Lord, I know I am prone to wonder,
Far away from Your staff and rod.
But I can’t go so far you can’t lead me homeward.
Loving Shepherd, gracious God.”