I’m always excited and pleased when the cause of the hymns movement is furthered…when good musicians continue to take old hymn texts and set them to accessible contemporary music. David Ward and the crew at Reformed Praise have been doing this for quite a while. Over the years, they have faithfully provided the online community with free mp3s and sheet music of their great material. Similar to Sovereign Grace’s recent albums, Merciful to Me contains works inspired by hymns and prayers (e.g. “O God the Holy Spirit,” inspired by a prayer in Valley of Vision) as well as re-tunings of full hymn texts (e.g. “Jesus, Lover of My Soul”). The songs on this album are singable and suitable for a variety of contemporary worship contexts. Some will have to “listen through” the arrangements to hear how the tunes and chord structures will differently but effectively fit their own worship context.
Impeccable. Biblical. Wonderful. Gospel-centered. God-exalting. I have nothing but the highest praise for the lyrical content of the album. The texts are 100% edifying and theologically right-on. This is theologically worry-free worship music.
The album has been said by other reviewers to house a wide variety of styles (pop-orchestral, bluegrass, rock, etc.), and while this is true, I would add that that it is all produced with an “adult contemporary” sound: vocals are high in the mix, strongly enunciated, pop-inflected, even and not terribly nuanced; drumming and percussion are often subtle in the mix and very straight; overall dynamics are steady; frequent presence of wind instruments. I would consider this more of a piano-driven sound rather than guitar-driven (notable exceptions are obviously apparent). “O Jesus” is a good example of a modern pop-rock style, and “The River” (which begins sounding reminiscent of a Michael Card arrangement) eventually arrives at a heavier rock vibe. However, even those songs are all still sifted through the crisp, adult contemporary production grid…you won’t find anything with a sound that is raw or edgy. The album, on the whole, then, has a sound similar to what you’d hear on a Keith and Kristyn Getty recording, though with a wider variety of stylistic expression. “O Weary Saint” is a beautiful setting of the John Ireland tune—very musical, very creative. “Majestic Sweetness” has a beautiful smooth jazz sound, with some surprising chordal moments. As a whole, the album is melodic, beautiful, and well-structured.
My Favorite Track
Personally, I most enjoy “O God the Holy Spirit.” I love the self-effacing, God-glorifying nature of the text. It ministers the gospel to my heart. Its melody is beautiful, and its progressions are familiar, moving, and satisfying.