Anointed music stems from a ministry that’s growing – and Karen Peck and New River’s 2015 release, Pray Now, is an example of such progress. I remember seeing KPNR in concert many times in 2014, and every time Karen shared with the audiences how their pastor had challenged their congregation to say the Lord’s Prayer daily. The result? Pray now…
As the Lord’s Prayer found its way into the bridge of the song from which this project is named, the concept of pray now wove itself into the theme of the whole CD. The Dictionary definition of prayer is “The act of communicating with a deity, urgent request, an appeal for help, etc.” How appropriate then, that this recording begins with a song that speaks of God calling to His people, and then, in the following track, His people speaking to Him? The theme goes on to be a psalm of thanksgiving in “I Am Blessed,” a firm resolution in “I Choose Christ” and a plea for comfort in “Lord, Send Your Angels.” Many other songs on the CD follow along the same lines lyrically, creating one cohesive subject throughout.
The musical style of this project follows KPNR’s previous releases. In my opinion, it closely resembles the sound in Revival. Some of the sounds you will hear on this recording can be defined as Country, big ballads and a few progressive tunes. Since the release of Ephesians One in 2008, New River has been taking those elements and creating a sound all their own; Pray Now is a continuation of that sound. Done well, I might add! If you’ve enjoyed Revival, Reach Out and No Worries, you will find the songs on this CD alike.
Karen Peck and New River released both a lyric video and a music video at the outset of releasing this CD. The official music video can be viewed at the end of this review.
Feature: Karen Peck Gooch
Message: Did you know that God calls out to you? Hearing the voice of God is the subject of this song. The first verse describes a series of feelings a person can have when they’re not in tune with the Lord: confused, fatigued, disappoint and lost. The chorus takes on the position of a spectator and poses the question, “Can’t you hear Him calling out your name?” The Lord wants to bring you home to His saving embrace…can’t you hear Him calling for you? In the second verse, we learn that God’s voice can be heard as whisper or a shout, but no matter how He chooses to get your attention; know that His voice is powerful enough to set you free.
Other Comments: To me, the music of this song takes on the style of “Oh, Hallelujah” from KPNR’s Revival project. A lead guitar kicks off the track with some good Country picking and then stops to let a fiddle echo a “screech” before the singing starts. Both the lead guitar and fiddle make regular appearances throughout the song which makes it very Country in nature, but by far one of the “coolest” sounding tracks on the CD.
2 Pray Now
Feature: Karen Peck Gooch
Message: “There are things in every journey that can break us…” When it feels like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, we can often buckle under the pressure. Though the first verse of this ballad doesn’t shy away from these realities, it goes on to give us the solution to each situation – don’t give up. While we’re doing that, the refrain urgently beckons us to pray. Why? Because He hasn’t changed – and if His power was good enough to deliver the saints of old, it can deliver us. In the name of Jesus, pray now! I love the lyrics to the second verse, “The silence doesn’t mean that He’s not listening and the darkness doesn’t mean that He is gone.” What comforting words to be reminded of when you’re in the middle of a trial! The bridge is comprised of the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer, which is followed by another chorus before closing the song.
Other Comments: Prior to the recording of this song, KPNR had been quoting the Lord’s Prayer in concert nightly as a part of their routine. When Pray Now was released, I wasn’t surprised that this familiar piece of Scripture influenced a song on the new CD, which went on to be the CD title and the first single. Karen Peck Gooch co-wrote this song with Dave Clark and Michael Farren. Whether you see this ballad live in concert or just through the speakers in your car, I believe you will be touched. It has a powerful message that the church needs to be reminded of! The music incorporates strings, piano, enough beats on the drum to keep the song moving along and a little bit of lead guitar.
3 Hallelujah For The Cross
Feature: Jeff Hawes
Message: As the title implies, this song is about lifting up the cross and the victory that was won there. The first verse talks about what Christ accomplished at Calvary while the second stanza explains why we could not work for our own salvation and had no hope without the cross. Finally, the third verse looks forward to the day when we breathe our last and enter into the promised rest. Each verse is separated by a chorus that exalts the name of the Lord, His death and the souls that were purchased by His redeeming blood. Death has lost the battle and love has won – Hallelujah!
Other Comments: This song has been brought over to SGM from the Contemporary Christian Music genre (CCM) and crafted to fit the style of KPNR. If I wouldn’t have heard it myself playing in a Christian book store one time, I wouldn’t have recognized it as a CCM song. The style has been arranged to sound like “our music” and I believe fans will love this song and enjoy it live in concert as well. It has a very up-beat, light, peppy feel to it that’s bound to lift your spirit!
4 Love With All Your Heart
Feature: Susan Peck Jackson
Message: How do you overcome the problems of life? Trouble manifests itself in all types of behaviors – fear on the inside and hostility on the outside. Can anyone make a difference? Can you? The chorus of this song answers that question with one word: Yes, love can. When you love with all your heart you shower healing on each situation and show that there is hope for a better future. The second verse explains that everyone will experience some type of loss in their life. These trials can change people, but a steady stream of God’s love can influence those around us for good. As the bridge declares – from God’s heart to mine and from mine to theirs…
Other Comments: In 2011, KPNR released a CD titled Reach Out that had a song called “Love With All Your Heart” on it – I’ll point out that this song, though with the same title, is a completely different song! This “Love With All Your Heart” is a mid-tempo, easy listening song. A steady beat keeps this tune moving forward with the lead guitar prominent in the background. A wonderful message – I think you’ll enjoy it!
5 I Am Blessed
Feature: Karen Peck Gooch
Message: Blessed is a highly favored state to be in. In the opening stanza of this tune, the writer searches out the real meaning of blessedness. First, it isn’t categorized by circumstance – for green pastures and refreshing waters are most assuredly blessings, but experience has taught the child of God that the deserts can’t take away their song. The key is found in the refrain: these blessings go beyond anything that can be achieved on this earth. Nothing can take this inner peace away. Secondly, we learn that disappointments and fears are a natural part of life, but through them we see how truly blessed we are. For when we believe that we have nothing, we realize how much we really have in the Lord. The bridge pulls from two Scriptures to sum it up – “You alone are my reward” (Genesis 15:1) and “Your goodness follows me all of my days” (Psalm 23:6.)
Other Comments: The track to this song is all about the guitar: the intro begins by the lone notes of the lead, joined seconds later by the rhythm and the soft “twang” of a steel. With the rich lyrics, one won’t be surprised to find Karen, Kenna West and Michael Farren as the writers. Together, they have created a song that builds not just musically, but spiritually to a state many will be able to cling to in the hard times and in the good.
6 I’m Not Letting Go
Feature: Jeff Hawes
Message: Following the theme of the last song, this one begins by acknowledging that life isn’t always sunshine and roses. Hard times come on Believers and sometimes, it can wear us down. Yet, that doesn’t mean that we have to give up. The chorus is the anthem that keeps us going – “I will hold on, I will not let go.” Believe when there’s nothing to believe in, rest in the Lord’s power when you are helpless and whatever comes your way, don’t let go of Jesus. The second verse reminds us that we don’t have to be shaken or moved. If God can conquer death, then there’s nothing He can’t do…which means the victory is already ours.
Other Comments: This up-beat song has a strong Country beat with hint of banjo and fiddle mixed in with the guitar and drums. Written by Karen, Benji Cowart and Kenna West, this tune will keep your toes tappin’!
7 I Choose Christ
Feature: Karen Peck Gooch
Message: Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t want to walk down the road in front of you, yet, there was no other choice? The one speaking in the opening lines of this song admits that they had. In the place where hope was replaced with pain, the words of Romans 8:28 seemed to fail. But it was that circumstance that taught them what following Christ really meant. For even when things looked bleak and forsaken, they resolved to choose the Lord. That’s the simple message of the chorus – faith and trust in the promises that God has given requires a choice – and this one cries out, “I choose Christ!” The second verse explains that the plan God has orchestrated for our lives may not always be the easiest road to walk down, but when we surrender and embrace the story He’s writing for us, He will be enough.
Other Comments: Written in the first person, this song has a very powerful message. Better yet, the music complements every aspect of it. A soft stroke from the strings begins the track and slowly, other instruments add their dynamics until the fullness of the music is just as beautiful as the lyrics. This is one of my favorites – I can listen to it again, and again and again!
8 Peace That Covers All The Pain
Feature: Susan Peck Jackson
Message: We have all experienced pain in life. As the first verse of this song describes, long nights can make you feel abandoned. Yet, the all-seeing Savior knows the reason for each tear and has promised that joy is on the horizon with the rising of the sun. But until then, as the chorus says, He will give a measure of peace to sooth the pain and calm the storm in your life. The second verse talks about what happens when you feel like you’ve lost your faith – a beautiful picture of the Father holding your hand, standing beside you and sending the Holy Spirit to comfort. The bridge says that even though you can’t understand it, His peace dissolves the pain and makes all things new.
Other Comments: The track to this song begins with a soft picking on the acoustic guitar and slowly builds into incorporating a little piano, steel guitar and strum on the acoustic. Susan does a great job on delivering this lyric and it reminds me a lot of her other features like Sustaining Grace (Reach Out, 2011) and I’ve Been Broken (Revival, 2013.)
9 Redemption’s Holy Lamb
Message: As the title implies, this song is all about the Lamb of God who bought our redemption at the cross. The first stanza begins in the realm of our world – weary Believers who are beat down by the flesh, but clinging to the promise of the future. Sometimes the goin’ was rough, but they know that one day, God will explain the reason behind every tear. The message of the refrain is simple: that coming day will be all about the mercy of God, which penned our names in the Book of Life by the blood of the Lamb who purchased our redemption. The next verse imagines what it will be like to gather around the throne of God and praising Him forever.
Other Comments: This is the Celtic tune of the project; the acoustic guitar, woodwind, drums and beat give this song the sounds of the Emerald Isle. Though Karen has the lead on a few lines, this song focuses on the group singing together more than any individual person.
10 Lord, Send Your Angels
Feature: Karen Peck Gooch
Message: When the bright light of the day descends into the dark night, a simple prayer beckons the Lord to impart comforters for the lonely hours. The chorus says, “Lord, send Your angels to watch over me.” With fear of the darkness, we only want Him to wrap us in His arms and calm our fears. The second verse goes on to say that there are times when you feel like a child again – only this time, the fears are the very real dangers and unseen trials ahead. Yet, that’s when the Lord sends His angels to cover us with their wings.
Other Comments: This sweet song has a gentle, easy listening track to it. Beginning with fingerstyle guitar, a lone violin and moderate strum, the dynamics of this song come from the music being quiet and focusing on the voices. Later on, you’ll hear the mandolin tremolo occasionally, giving the tune a definite Country sound. With the lyrics using metaphors of childhood describing God as Father, the message reminds me of Hold Me When I Cry and Jump.
11 A Life That’s Good
Feature: Kari Gooch
Message: Kari’s song is about the goodness God has blessed us with in a good life. The scene begins by the fireplace, contemplating the life that has been given. The conclusion? They say, “I already have more than I should.” They don’t need public recognition or more stuff. Instead, the chorus speaks of the things that really matter…family, love, transportation and a song. The second verse goes on by explaining that sometimes they have been hard on themselves to do all they could to fulfill their dreams. When it’s all said and done, it has been a good life.
Other Comments: A Life That’s Good is Kari’s first recorded solo! Kari has been joining the group on stage in concert over the last year or two, but most of these performances are harmony and not solo. Personally, I’ve only heard her sing a solo once, so when I first heard her voice featured on this song it was a pleasant surprise! She is talented like her mom! Like the previous track, this tune also uses a lot of guitar picking and violin in the music. This is another soft, easy listening tune that will beckon you to reflect on the goodness of your life as well.
Conclusion: After Revival (which won a Dove Award for Southern Gospel Song of the Year in 2014) I thought it would be tough to make the next CD just as good or better. No worry there, Pray Now is one of my favorite KPNR projects and this October, it too won Southern Gospel Album of the Year at the Dove Awards! What makes a project great? As I scanned down the song credits during the writing process of this review, I noticed Karen’s name appearing as co-writer on many of these new songs. It then dawned on me how key that has to be in the creative direction of the lyrics. When the artist who delivers these songs on stage has a hand in writing them, the group has the exact material they want to share with their audience. Often, that season of life is being experienced by those in the audience as well, and that takes the songs/groups impact to a new level. With that said, Pray Now contains some of the most powerful lyrics released this year in Southern Gospel Music. I believe songs like Pray Now, I Choose Christ and I Am Blessed will touch many lives as folks listen to this new project from Karen Peck and New River!
Visit Karen Peck and New River online HERE
Purchase Pray Now HERE