The Booth Brothers – “Let It Be Known”
Street Date: August 23
The Booth Brothers have pretty much shot to the top shelf in the last 4 or 5 years, coming off the heels of “The Blind Man Saw It All” and have continued to produce high quality music with a bountiful enthusiasm and a genuine passion for the Gospel and encouraging the church. Surely they are all quality singers, but their vocal blend remains super tight and virtually immeasurable, matched by only a very small portion of other groups. Regardless of what you think about their vocals individually, they’ve found their niche in their harmony, high quality songs, and a deeply connected interaction with their audiences. Those are the kind of things that God will certainly bless. And He has.
I’ve really only been acclimated to their stuff in recent years, but own most of their work. Overall, I’ve enjoyed this recording more than their last, “Declaration”. I’ve already lamented over heavy orchestrations for every song, which is basically what “Declaration” is. It was a good project with high quality songs and arrangements, but I became bombarded by how big it was. But here, we see it stripped back…as has been the case with many recent projects from other artists, partially due to the state of the economy in the southern gospel landscape, and partially due to the loaded orchestration apathy among some fans.
1. First John: Looking back, I almost wanted to hear more acapella like what I heard at the beginning. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the album, but Goss and acapella is simply a special, wondrous collaboration to the ear. It’s rare that I’ll ever forget a concert in which the group or artist opens up the set with an acapella number. Because usually you get 1 of 2 things. Either it’s awful, and you realize the quality of the singers (or singer) will proceed to be backed up by heavy tracks and stax throughout the rest of the show, thus making the fan with a bad ear forget they ever heard an acapella song in mediocre fashion, yet I know I’ll always remember it. Or you get something thrilling, dynamic, or at the least, very memorable. It’s not “One Scarred Hand” or “When Jesus Breaks The Morning”, but it’s definitely good.
2. See What A Morning: Ok, after a great acapella intro, we slammed into this one with an overtly celtic feel as southern gospel begins to back to its original Irish roots. But as the first lyric was uttered, I realized I had heard this song before. It took me a minute but alas, it was a Keith and Kristy Getty song. Revelation must’ve rubbed off on The Booth Brothers. It is indeed a magnificent arrangement, and I would expect no less from the great Lari Goss. It does borrow, in a sense from the commonalities of contemporary choral arrangements from 15-20 years ago with a modern twist, but that’s in Goss’ wheelhouse anyways. I heard talk that this album was nothing like “Declaration”, and it’s not…but with the first full instrumental track being this expansive, it seemed like a psychological twist in my own mind. It’s an odd thing to like a song geared in a P&W forum, and like it as much in SG. But I do. They made it fit well, and most people who follow SG would only think it to be “different”. There are other songs on this project I like much more, but with a collection of songs, mild on heavy orchestration, this one seems complimentary of the songs it’s sandwiched between. Daniel, I did almost laugh aloud in sheer delight. Almost…
3. She Still Remembers Jesus’ Name: If you’re paying attention, the story is mostly predictable, but gorgeously crafted and Christ centered. The melody of the chorus is excellent and it’s a soothing lead vocal. “He left a mark upon her heart that time cannot erase” is a chillingly beautiful lyric. While I don’t know specifics of the situation, I’m immediately drawn to a personal life experience in these words from the writer, and they are sung accordingly to that thought in mind. Since the majority of fans are a little older, I’d expect them to give an emotional response. And I think this kind of emotion, matched with an encouraging lyric and beautiful music. Includes a great piano arrangement, with some steel guitar refreshingly adding to the overall piece of the music. This is set to be the first single from the project, and I think the emotional connection alone, will allow it reach many discouraged people. (Now that Enlighten is around…for now).
4. He’s So Good To Me: This is just classic southern gospel. The Booth Brothers qualify in recording songs that are both catchy and “cool”. I mean, yes it’s classic southern gospel, but they consistently find a way to do it at a cool angle without the prevalent cheesiness we’re bound to see when we go to a concert. I know their goal isn’t to be so fixed on such a newer generation of fans and listeners, but if you can stay to your roots and do it with style, I think ultimately it enhances your brand (ahem, or ministry). I’m not going to get saved again after hearing this song, but it adds some speed to the flow of the album…which we certainly can’t do without.
5. When You Bow At Jesus’ Feet: What adds to this song, is that it is reduced. Piano & strings. Songs like this bring immediate reflection to the listener, picturing your very breath by the Grace of God, closing your eyes, being spiritually deepened by how wonderfully the words interplay with the music. “Pour your heart out to the Savior, and He alone will break the chains”. I’m captivated by the lyric, “Leave your guilt to yesterday….defined no longer to your failures…you’ll find strength in letting go”. This carries somewhat of an inspo leaning, but in the first 5 tracks, I believe it to be the standout song. It’s eloquently written, eloquently arranged, and eloquently sung. I could probably write down the entire lyrics, but that wouldn’t leave as much for your own intrigue.
6. Since Jesus Came: Jazz influences begin to creep in this song, as they should with any Booth Brothers project, especially when Lari Goss is involved. The opening line contains “living and breathing, but really just existing.” Which many are certainly doing. Many of you may truly enjoy this song. I caught myself tapping my foot and tapping my fingers on the keys as I even type. So I can’t say it’s not catchy to any extent, for it is. You will have to listen to approximately 30 seconds of “do do do”.
7. Masterpiece of Mercy: “the sinner I’d become”. I didn’t know we ‘became’ sinners. I’m under the conviction we were born sinners. Surely this wasn’t the intent of the lyric. Maybe the sinning I’d done, but without the distinction, maybe one who knew Christ, yet was not familiar with the totality of the Gospel…at least in a fuller, deeper, and theologically evangelical sense , it would mildly seem to promote a works doctrine. I don’t think this makes it a bad song by any stretch. Because like you, I know what the intention is. Absolutely there are levels of sinfulness, and I don’t think this is a theologically depleted song, and I know the Booth Bros don’t promote a works doctrine. And probably, an unbelieving sinner that hears this song won’t ask the same questions I would, so really, it’s a moot point. I believe this to be more of a Testimony, moving into another personal experience and self-reflection. And I can’t dissect someone else’s experience or reflective art. Anyways, everytime I hear a song about the artist and painting, I think of The Talleys’ “Work of Heart“. The song even includes a line about a “masterpiece of mercy”. At least God didn’t paint sunshine in my heart this time, so the Booth bros avoid some cheesy lyrical work in that regard in what come out to be a nice song.
8. Let It Be Known: A great missional song. Bring light to a dark world. Don’t run away from the dark. For instance, this theology heads into the distinction of not completely separating yourself from the world. A lot of Christians, baptist in particular have been mis-representing the call of Christ for our lives in how we are to make Him known. Absolutely, there is a mandate for Christians not to be “worldly”, but careful in what it is we separate ourselves from. By separating too far, we create a religious wall where we don’t go out, and they don’t come in. Musically, it’s equally brilliant. The vocal arrangements done here, may personally be my favorite on the entire album. This
9. The Master’s Table: The pacing of this song is magnificent. By this song, I’ve come to recognize how tight their blend really is. This is simply an easy, southern gospel song with some neat chords in the chorus, and some fittingly splendid electric guitar breaks. I’m bad at picking singles…actually I don’t think I’m that bad…but what I usually engage in the the most doesn’t make the list. I think I can meet middle ground here. This sounds like something that could do well on the airwaves, and I enjoyed it. Sounds a lot like a GVB song from the Penrod era. Leading us to…
10. Bread Upon The Water: I’m convinced that this made the final cut so they could sing some older, more recognizable material for the crowds. Even those who wouldn’t believe it to be that old would at least presume it to have been a new Gaither song 5 years ago. But as most of you would know, it was indeed an old Imperials song. Makes sense. The Imperials were hip. The Booth Brothers are pretty hip. If they had done this song with a similar arrangement to GVB’s version, I may have thought twice about it. But they didn’t. Actually, it’s completely different. And I can respect that, even if I thought it was a little wacky initially (or maybe just surprised). I can respect different. Sounds like they would have had a fun time recording it in the studio, as it’s sped up with a little late 70s swing flair. It may be one that grows on me, however. We shall see.
(Actually, it just did. I probably listened to it about 5 or 6 times, took a week break..and listened to it again. Yes, it is growing on me. The brilliance is almost unmatched. Smart men involved.)
11. What About Now: The acoustic prelude to this song is almost worthy buying. Then the Goss arranged strings make a quick appearance, and flow subtly until the big impact. But the song gets better. “It’s not about praying a prayer or joining a church”. This lyric launches us into “What are you doing now?” Sanctification! Yeah, boi. The evidence of “justification” is made clear through “sanctification”. I always preach “evangelism without discipleship weakens the church”. And to counterpart “Let It Be Known”, I feel the Booth Brothers succeed in that through song. This is straightforwardly reflecting on the culture of southern gospel. The same people than enable southern gospel artists in their sinful lifestyles (which I wrote about in my previous post), are the exact ones who won’t like this song…because most of them probably aren’t saved either. Maybe God will answer my prayer and people will begin to walk out…then the church can see who’s really in it. But the lack of irony will prevail, and they will sit in their seats, and only pretend to get a blessing. But those of the church…will be blessed and encouraged, and ecstatic about the bold proclamation of the gospel wrapped into this song. I would buy this album for this track alone and play it for all my southern gospel listening friends who I know for certain don’t truly know Christ, yet think they do. They are apostate (God, help me with my arrogance). ‘Nuff said. I appreciate the boldness of the Booth bros stance. Then again, if Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver had recorded this, I’d still be excited about it. It does indeed include a great build up 4/5 of the way through, that is purely invigorating, and as much as I love music, I don’t really care how it was arranged by this point. I’m connected to the message. Because it is convicting. Where does Christ and your life intersect?
We have a little outro of “First John”, unifying the album, to which it is now deemed a “project”. These kinds of things have been happening on albums of other genres for awhile. It’s about time.
It’s perfectly clear to me that The Booth Brothers listen to a wide variety of music and try to incorporate those influences wherever it would work in a southern gospel arena. And that’s something else I respect. Every group may have their limitations, but The Booth Brothers expand the parameters between their limits and a limitless barrier. It creates a much broader scale of music, yet aptly reflects their passion for creativity and style.
To be honest, it’s hard to be so involved in so many things, and keep up with every southern gospel song and every southern gospel artist. So until recently, I didn’t keep an eye on everything the Booth Brothers did. Overall, I enjoyed this album more than “Declaration”. Personally, I think it flows better. I also think this is more of the kind of work The Booth Brothers aim to do in the future, to varying degrees. I think this is the kind of project they like to do. Their creativity in music and their content in the message and how they present it achieves a double exegesis in the southern gospel landscape. But for The Booth Brothers, this isn’t too far out of the box. They were already a little different than the rest before this thing went to be mastered. I think it simply represents who they are what they want to do, and how God is enabling them to do it.