The Kingsmen – “Grace Says”
So, admittedly I’m behind on this one. I began it and largely forgot about it. But just because of my lack of focus regarding this project does not mean it should be underestimated. It’s no business in comparing what the Kingsmen used to be to what they are now. They have a splendid heritage and seem to work heart and be genuine. In year 3 or 4 of the group’s new musical direction, they have progressively done better with the expectations. “When God Ran” kinda threw everybody off on the new anatomy of the past Kingsmen persona. Great song, and personally, I felt about half the project was solid. I actually think they took a step back in “Missing People” overall, even though it included a couple of great songs such as the chart topper “God Saw A Cross”. Maybe it’s simply personal preference. But “Grace Says” is superior to both of those previous projects.
While many have already reviewed this project as schizophrenic, I see that too. Instead of taking 2 or 3 different musical influences to try and create a specific musical style, The Kingsmen have recently displayed their knack for taking those 2 or 3 musical influences and integrating them as they are throughout their projects. It gives them some freedom to do what they want, while giving old-school Kingsmen fans the traditional flavor. It may not be the direction that maximizes their potential, but there’s no denying that to a certain amplitude, IT IS smart.
Another thought of this schizophrenic variety may lie in the personalities of Bryan Hutson and Randy Crawford, in which may be the most simple solution. Both have appreciation for the traditional, but seem to lean towards progressive material. Hutson would probably admit this and Crawford most recently traveled with Brian Free & Assurance, the progressive southern gospel aficionados.
Then there’s Ray Dean Reese and Harold Reed. Ray Dean is the traditional Kingsmen man, having been there since anyone who reads this blog can remember. As God has always been, even before the beginning, Ray Dean has been a Kingsmen longer than my mother has been alive. And Harold Reed is a Florida Boy/Dixie Melody Boy. Good thing the name change went through, or he may still be a Carolina Boy. Now, he is among the Men (bad joke). Yet, his past tenures sorta indicate his comfort around a more traditional approach to southern gospel, and subsequently, his voice fits that mold best. For The Kingsmen, finding material isn’t a problem. It’s finding good material that doesn’t contrast so much. And as I stated earlier, that’s not a bad problem to have, but for some, just a confusing one. I feel like I’m trying to answer everyone else’s questions about this and find a medium working ground. As stated earlier, this project is the best in a few years by The Kingsmen.
But all that being said, this is a good record. Without breaking down the theological situations within the lyrics, there’s a lot to like…Kingsmen fan or not. This may not make the final cut on the playlist for my next road trip, but it’s solid.
There Is A Way Back To Grace: is a little countrified progressive song that sets the pace as a good opener. Surely if there were a way back to grace, the Kingsmen believe in eternal security.
That’s When I Knew It Was Him: I think this song is excellent and should be a hit for the Kingsmen. I think the orchestrations could’ve been a little lighter. Something subtle for that song may have enhanced it’s capability.
He’s Everything I Need: Certainly catchy, Habedank written. I actually don’t know why The Perrys didn’t record this. Contrary to what he may have said at the NQC Showcase, has he not heard his own music recently? This is a Perry’s song, for sure. But I suppose the measure of knowing what’s for you and what’s for someone else is rather blended in its own existence. It’s simple and a tad cliche, but that’s not really a criticism in this genre. The melody certainly gets stuck in your head.
Grace Says: Solid song. I was actually more impressed with the arrangement than the song itself.
Ordinary Man: Continuing the theme of drum programming, this sounds like a mid 90s Michael English track or maybe a little newer…possibly something from “Heaven To Earth”, also continuing the theme of the additional drug programming as “When God Ran” debuted. Sure, this is a contemporary flavor. But the lyrics contained are deeper than what they appear. What seems to be relayed to the listener/writer/singer is much more beyond than the cliche lyricism of grace. It’s personal. It’s value is infinite. “Holy living is not natural. Holy people are not normal”. I do believe a different arrangement on the bridge may have been serviceable…for it seems to subtract from the essence of the song’s ultimate flow. Hutson sings this well. It’s sounds as if he enjoys singing this kind of song. This is the vernacular of his methodology, the musical and personal language of his heart. An ordinary man, like you and I, touched by Christ.
Loving Shepherd, Gracious God: This is a solid hymnological piece by D. Wilkinson. If there were a Ray Dean Reese signature (and there has been), this may be the new one. This song has been a hot topic on other blogs, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Taken from Psalm 23, this seems fit for Reese at this time in his life, not just because of his bout with cancer, but because of it’s wisdom, because of its signficance, because of its emptiness, because of its overflowing ability to point us to a loving Shepherd who “sympathizes with us in our weakness”. A high priest, a king, a suffering servant, a Shepherd for “normal” folk. It’s smooth and refreshing.
I thought their last couple of projects contained some good songs, but looking at this thing with a clearer perspective, I believe this may indeed be a stronger effort in the overall creativity of The Kingsmen. I enjoy Hutson and Crawford as a tandem, and as sporadic as the project seems, old folk and southern gospel purists also need their convention songs. There are some good convention songs, but mostly (and just my opinion…I know everyone has one), convention songs just seem to be “properly chosen” but sometimes “cheaply thrown in” to a recording. Takes a lot to make everything work just right, but I believe The Kingsmen are making strides to get there.