To one generation, hymns relive memories of the past. To another, they are a new sound just discovered. On the Whisnant’s Hymns and Harmony CD, they are both. In 2012 the Whisnants released a project titled “Hymns and Harmony.” The idea for this recording originated in a conversation between the Whisnants and Greater Vision – both groups travel extensively in the US and spend a lot of time in different venues and through their experiences have found that the hymns are slowly becoming rare, even in churches – so, the Whisnants went into the studio, brought Gerald Wolfe along as producer and this recording was born!
The Theme: With writers whose lives stretch from 1849 – 1910, the thoughts and themes of these songs vary greatly, but even in the midst of such diversity one can count on this consistent subject…Jesus Christ. From the first track that sings of “telling the world that Jesus saves today…” to “I should have hung on the cross in disgrace, but Jesus God’s Son took my place…” and finally the triumphant ending of “walking and talking with Christ the supernal One, won’t it be wonderful there?” will leave our heart meditating on the One whom these hymns sing about. You can’t get a better theme than that!
The Music: The style is very traditional – the fast numbers move to the beat of the “Southern Gospel band;” piano, bass, lead guitar and drums…with a few strings tagged along in just the right places. The ballads are showcased with strings and piano, leaving the emphasis on the vocals. Many of these numbers sound like they’re from the little country church down the road! If you’re familiar with the Whisnant’s music, you’ll find this style a perfect fit with what they perform every night in concert. Not only does the background music fit the artist, it fits the nature of the hymns as well. When I hear the Whisnants sing songs like The Gloryland Way, The Savior Is Waiting and We Are So Blessed, a smile comes to my face because they sing them the way we imagine they would be done! If you’ve heard this project or some of these live in concert, I’m sure you would agree!
Tenor – Aaron Hise
Lead – Jeff Whisnant
Alto – Susan Whistnant
1. The Gloryland Way
Feature: Jeff Whisnant and Aaron Hise
Message: This happy tune calls our journey to heaven the “glory land way.” In the first verse, we have a Believer declare that they are in “the way.” In the second verse that same soldier of the Cross beckons others to join the road to glory, and once again in the third verse, the pilgrim talks about their own journey – with an emphasis on God’s love and seeing Him face to face in heaven. The refrain is a simple chorus that calls out, “I’m in the gloryland way!” – and with each passing day, that glory draws a little bit nearer!
Other Comments: In this tune we have “the band” backing up the vocals with a good up-tempo beat. Jeff, Susan and Aaron all sing the first verse together, Jeff is featured on the second and Aaron the third. (Yes, they sang ALL the verses to the song! Yay!) For those who are really curious, none of the verses were back to back, instead, each one was separated by the chorus.
2. He Is Mine and I Am His
Feature: All vocals
Message: The salvation experience is brought before us in the first verse as one tells of how they were rescued by God’s grace. The chorus goes on to proclaim the promise that all Believers have – the knowledge that we are His forever and He will lead us, even when we walk through death’s doors. The second verse speaks of what life is like with Christ in the center of it – joy, delivered and shielded from the sting of sin.
Other Comments: Mostly, the verses carry all the voices of the Whisnants, but on the chorus, Jeff takes the lead, but when it circles around a second time, it’s Susan’s turn.
3. I Should Have Been Crucified
Feature: Susan Whisnant
Message: A story of stunning beauty is placed before us in this song. In the first verse, the offender is brought before the judge and found guilty. With no way out of the sentence, the verdict is declared…until one named Jesus steps up and trades places with the sinner. In the chorus, the offender declares that they were the one who should have died and paid the penalty. They should have been lead away to the cross…and they should have bore the sin, but instead, God’s Son did it for them. The second verse contemplates the sufferings that Jesus endured while on Calvary: the crown of thorns, the nails, the spear, the pain – and with a grateful heart says, “But Christ took them and let me go free.”
Other Comments: This is one of my favorite songs from the CD. Susan does such a great job on the verses, pouring the emotion of the lyric into her alto range and letting the feel deliver the moment. There is such a great message in the ballad and I think it’s safe to say that’s why it made the cut.
4. He Keeps Me Singing
Feature: Susan Whisnant
Message: From the opening lines, we hear a specific theme flow through the writers pen…music. The first stanza of the hymn speaks of a melody that’s whispered into the heart from the throne of God – this song reminds us of the peace we have every day, and it’s all wrapped up in the name of Jesus. That name, is the culmination of the chorus, declaring that Jesus is the sweetest name of all. The next verse we hear talks of the riches and rest we can delight in when we keep our focus on Him and the final verse tells of his coming, when we’ll be welcomed into His arms beyond the twinkling stars.
Other Comments: The traditional hymn has five verses, so it’s perfectly understandable why the Whisnants only cut three verses; which were 1, 3, and 5. Though most of these feature all the voices together, Susan gets a few lines on the second verse.
5. We Are So Blessed
Feature: All vocals
Message: The lyrics of this ballad are a prayer of thanksgiving, one that meditates on the blessings the Father has bestowed on His children and thanking Him for them. It’s no wonder then, that the first words we hear are, “We are so blessed!” His gifts and love are just a few things that keep our hearts spellbound. The chorus brings to mind the times when He fed us, filled us and helped us understand how fortunate we really are. Finally, in the last few lines of the refrain, we surrender everything to Him. The second verse simply says that there are no words to explain or no action that can define how blessed we are.
Other Comments: With a soft touch on the piano and a little organ, this song written by the Gaithers and Greg Nelson brings a reflective mood to the recording.
6. He Set Me Free
Feature: All vocals
Message: Freedom is by far the one thing in life everyone craves for, in this song, the writer gives a person testimony of how the Lord gave them just that. Like a bird trapped behind the bars of its cage, their soul was locked in a prison of grief and nothing could alleviate their sadness. Then Jesus came and opened the door…He set them free. The chorus speaks of that event and how it changed their life, so now, they climb a little bit closer to glory every day with the knowledge that their feet stands on solid ground.
Other Comments: The guitar kicks off the intro and leads the way into this snappy tune. I have heard a lot of groups cut this old song and the Whisnants added their own special touch to the classic.
7. The Savior Is Waiting
Feature: Aaron Hise
Message: The words that make up the title of this song also opens the first stanza and gently poses the question, “The Savior is waiting…why won’t you let Him come in?” Going on to explain that nothing can separate anyone from the love of God, the lyric inquires for an answer to the question. With spiritual insight, the chorus sings of the many times that the Savior has knocked on your door and how He stands there once again. His purpose is the same – how He longs to abide within you! The second verse assures the listener that it only takes one step in His direction to find open, welcoming arms; and in that embrace all darkness flees.
Other Comments: I think this is a perfect invitation song!
8. Heaven Will Surely Be Worth It All
Feature: Jeff Whisnant
Message: Life can be discouraging at times, but it truly can’t compare to what waits ahead for those who are in Christ. In the opening line we see one in such a position: burdened, weary and almost fallen. Yet, the voice of Christ whispers to their heart words that will help them press on, “Heaven will be worth it all.” This is the message the refrain sooths our souls with as well – and that is, the sweet assurance that our tears and problems will be worth every struggle when we step into eternity. As the second verse reminds us, though things we face on this earth may break our hearts, we must remember what is promised up above.
Other Comments: This is one of those “easy listening” songs that has a steady, but relaxed beat. The lyrics are such an encouragement to Believers as they face rough roads in life.
9. Grace Greater Than Our Sin
Feature: Aaron Hise and Susan Whisnant
Message: The blood and grace go hand in hand. In this hymn written by Julia Johnston; that story unfolds. In the first verse, we see the picture of grace in the blood of Christ, which is the one thing that is greater than our transgressions. The chorus calls it the “pardon” and the agent that takes our heart and makes it pure so we can stand before God. The next verse (that Aaron sings) looks at the stain sin leaves on us and ponders the question, “What can we do to wash it away?” The remaining line answers by pointing to the “crimson tide” flowing from Calvary. Finally, the closing verse meditates on how awesome, lasting and free this grace is to those who receive it.
Other Comments: Out of the original four verses to the hymn, the first, third and fourth made the cut. During the first verse everyone sings along, and then, Aaron is featured on the next verse and Susan on the following.
10. Won’t It Be Wonderful There
Feature: Jeff Whisnant, Aaron Hise and Susan Whisnant
Message: The question is asked, won’t heaven be breathtaking?…and so the first verse draws us a picture of walking through the gates of heaven with our Savior, knowing the sorrows of life are ended…won’t it be wonderful? Echoing those sweet words, the chorus emphasizes the joy and singing that will be there. The second verse speaks of walking down the streets of heaven with the Lord, talking with Him, praising and adoring Him. Following, we are promised that the storms of life will never reach us there, for as the third verse says, “The Lord will be keeping us.” Won’t it be wonderful there!
Other Comments: This hymn has three verses and each one features a different vocalist. Jeff sings the opening verse, a chorus passes and then verses 2 and 3 are done back to back, featuring Aaron and Susan. (In that order!)
Hymns and Harmony is available for purchase HERE