Worship music has been all the rage for a few years, with seemingly every Christian artist at least covering a standard or two if not putting out a complete worship album. The trend has altered slightly recently, with artists such as Ashley Cleveland, Amy Grant and Jars of Clay reaching back to record classic hymns instead of recent worship standards. Now Bart Millard of Mercy Me has released hisHymned project. I briefly met Bart during Gospel Music Association (GMA) week in spring, and received a pre-release CD with several of the songs. However, the CD was defective and so I pretty much forgot about the project amidst all of the other recent releases.
Eventually I received the DualDisc release (DualDiscs have the normal CD on one side and a DVD on the other). It sat around for a couple of weeks, and then I finally got around to giving it a listen. I was blown away--although there have been several very good hymn projects this year, this one is my favorite. The melodies stay close to the originals, but there are just enough twists to make things interesting, and Millard's voice is at its best in his treatment of these old favorites. Veteran producer Brown Bannister used his experience and connections to enlist some quality players, and Millard brought along guitarist Barry Graul from Mercy Me (old rockers may remember Barry from Whitecross). The impeccable musicianship includes guests like Robert Randolph on Sweetest Name I Know, and vocal assistance from Derek Webb and Vince Gill. My favorite guest spot is Russ Taff's inspiring contribution to Precious Lord, Take My Hand. The songs are all covers, except for MawMaw's Song (In The Sweet By and By) by Bart and Barry, which uses the hymn for the chorus. Millard's love for the old hymns shines through, and the end result is a standout project in this "year of the hymn."
The DVD offers the entire album in enhanced stereo plus about 19 minutes of "behind the scenes" access including Bart taking us on a tour of the two Baptist churches in Greenville, Texas where he grew up, sang, met his wife, was married, and so on. We also get a look in the studio during the amazingly quick recording process. The entire CD was recorded in only 20 days, but the quality didn't suffer for it. (These extra features plus the enhanced stereo option make the DualDisc the wise buy in my opinion.)
Bart explains the title: "The record is called 'Hymned', which is sort of a play on words off of the sewing term 'hemmed,' which I'm using in the sense that the experience of having these songs sung to me in my childhood is a big part of what has sewn my life together."
Hymned has hints of Elvis, and moments of blues, gospel, country, soul, pop and rock, all unified by the classic hymns that Bart Millard grew up singing in church. This project is truly a labor of his love for both the hymns and his MawMaw, and the result will bless all who listen to it.
Visit: Bart Millard for more background about the recording of the project.