Bart Millard, the voice of MercyMe, crafts one of the most musically innovated CDs of the year with Hymned Again. Following in the footsteps of his successful debut release, Hymned No. 1., Bart delivers bold interpretations of familiar hymns with a fun, up-tempo and spirited musical journey showcasing his signature vocals.
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Bart Millard [Hymned Again]| Posted October 07, 2008 [MAIN REVIEW]
Back in August of 2005, MercyMe front-man Bart Millard released his first solo CD. I was somewhat surprised at what content he would cover with the solo disc, considering it was so different from the material he had done with MercyMe. But, when I first took a listen to Hymned No. 1, I was blown away! I only wish it was not one of the reviews that I had written that had been lost in our great site deletion last September (2008). I was particularly proud of that one. The CD was amazing and in the review I had mentioned that I was ‘a sucker for the hymns’. Hymns are an absolute favorite of mine. They come from a time that wasn’t marred with radio charts and record sales. They were written with the intent purpose of helping God’s people bring praise and worship to the Lord Himself, in the form of music. If only the focus of music remained the same today.
Fast forward two years from Millard’s successful solo debut, Hymned No. 1 to his brand-new solo disc, a sequel if you will, simply titled Hymned Again. Bart is back with an all new array of hymns done in only a way that he can do them. There are some real good ones on here too. The first song of note, in which I find myself singing not only in church, but sometimes while I work during the day is, “What a Day That Will Be”. The song is constant reminder that this world is not our home, and that a day is coming that we will just stand in awe in. The hymn, originally written in 1955 by Jim Hill remains one of my favorites to this day. The chorus speaks volumes, it is written, “What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see, / And I look upon His face, / The One who saved me by His grace; / When He takes me by the hand / And leads me through the Promised Land, / What a day, glorious day that will be.”
Another track on this record that caught my attention was the Hank Williams’ penned revelation, “I Saw the Light”. I have to be honest; I had not heard this one too often. The church that I had gone to for nearly 4 years had hymn books, but no hymn in the book was newer then 1937, so I had not heard this one. But after hearing Bart’s version along with a live version from David Crowder*Band’s Remedy Club Live (which also released August 19th), and a reference to the song on DecembeRadio’s new song from Satisfied, “Gasoline”, I quickly grew to love this song and its dynamic message. While Williams himself battled with alcohol addiction, he points out in the song, “Praise the Lord, I saw the light”. I think we can all relate to that in some way or another, Amen?
For those of you who have listened to Hymned No. 1, you’ll notice that Amy Grant’s husband and country superstar Vince Gill lends his signature voice to “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior”. Well he’s back for round two, this time lending his voice to the record’s sole Millard written song, “Jesus Cares for Me”. The duet between the two once again is simply amazing and the song itself proves and solidifies Millard’s ability to write thought-provoking and ministering music. Who knows, maybe someday, “Jesus Cares for Me” will end up in a modern hymn-book. You never know!
Bart also covers one of my all-time favorites with “Victory in Jesus”, written in 1939 by Eugene Bartlett. I especially like the musical arrangement for the track as well. It almost sounds like something you would hear on a Broadway musical. It’s got a ‘big band’ sound to it that makes it sound much different then the traditional arrangement. Nice stuff here.
Another hymn included on the record, “Down at the Cross”, a hymn that most are familiar with and perhaps the oldest hymn covered on the album, written in 1878 by Elisha Hoffman. Bart gives the song a revamped country bluesy-rock sound that shines throughout this wonderfully written piece of music. The words of “Down at the Cross”, could very well fit in with a lot of the praise and worship tunes found today in modern churches.
The last song that stuck out, with it’s beautifully simplicity is “Grace That Is Greater”. The song simply features Millard on vocals with a female vocalist providing the harmonizing BGV’s and a ukulele playing was simple, but effective in its delivery. First thing I thought of when I heard the music was Tiny Tim. Not the singing, but the ukulele. I don’t know why, but hey, things pop in your head sometimes and you wonder, ‘Where the heck did that come from?” lol.
Lending BGV’s on the album once again is the talented Anthony Evans. I much enjoyed his contributions on Hymned No. 1 and his work on this is just as stellar. Passion and Watermark’s Christy Nockels lends her voice on “I Stand Amazed” as well.
All in all, I was impressed with Millard’s effort on the second Hymned album. I was really hoping that he would come back with a second CD, considering the first solo record was aptly titled, Hymned No. 1. Although as I mentioned in the review that I love hymns, I wasn’t as impressed with this one as I was with the first, but I can pretty much guarantee anyone who enjoys not only the hymns, but Millard’s first record, will be sure to like this one. Musically it’s way different then his material with MercyMe, but that’s what I like about it the most. Doing a solo record outside your main group’s material gives an artist an opportunity to do the style he likes the most and that’s what you have with Hymned Again. Impressive work here!
MERCYME’S MILLARD SCORES SECOND HOME-RUN WITH PERSONAL HYMNBOOK| Posted September 24, 2008
It’s not everyday a multi-platinum selling “ccm” artist sidesteps his worldwide career to release a hymns record. Especially when this artist is fronting a band famous for its consummate contribution to the modern worship scene, helping reshape it into the industry it is today. But MercyMe’s Bart Millard has taken the time to do just that, again.
Shuffling through 10 historic gems and one original tune, Hymned Again is a dazzling departure from MercyMe’s more pensive pop/rock fare. Flinging the door wide open for interpretation, Hymned Again brilliantly stylizes its classic catalog with western swing, brassy big band, finger pickin’ Dixieland, simple acoustic and waltzy blues and jazz.
Conjuring up scenes of Southern Baptist potluck, “Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus” introduces the record, striking up a band that includes a thumping upright, strumming banjos and a wily clarinet.
Similarly, “I Saw the Light” broadcasts a blazing testimonial, while “What A Friend in Jesus” utilizes loose snare rolls, bleating horns, a saucy New Orleans-inspired woodwind and Millard’s take it or leave it vocal to convict you out of the pew and down the aisle.
Even with all the roaring horns and foot-stomping arrangements, it is the soothing strains of “Jesus Cares For Me” that give this second installment of hymns its pinnacle. An impeccable duet with Vince Gill, Millard’s voice so effortlessly harmonizes with Gill’s sweet transport it’s hard, at times, to discern who is singing where—the true mark of a stellar collaboration.
Hymned Again is an unusual and oh so wonderful blend of melody, music and history that is unfortunately rare in today’s capitalistic musical commerce. –Andrew Greer
This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from Christian Music Planet. Click here to visit ChristianMusicPlanet.com today!
Not up to par| Posted September 12, 2008
I would have told you that Bart Millard was one of the great legends of Contemporary Christian music until I heard this cd. The first one was absolutely amazing, but this one just wasn't doin' it for me. I highly recommend the first Hymned album but not the second.
Dust off that Hymnal, Kids!| Posted August 28, 2008
If you grew up in a church that used the hymnal, you'll probably enjoy Bart Millard's "Hymned Again" as much as I do.
Choosing all "classics" (with the exception of the original tune "Jesus Cares for Me" - a duet with Vince Gill, no less!), Bart and producer Brown Bannister have really put on an arranging clinic. Most of the songs have a New Orleans flavor in one way or another. "Stand Up For Jesus" is New Orleans jazz complete with banjo & clarinet. "I Saw the Light" is a swamp boogie. "What a Friend We Have In Jesus is a second-line style march that will have you picturing the umbrella-toting grand marshall (with a theremin solo thrown in for good measure).
It is so refreshing to hear these old, engrained-in-the-brain chestnuts updated, yet treated with immense respect.
Hats off to Bart, Brown, Vince and everyone else associated with this project!