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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Al Denson
Label: Spring Hill Music Group (2002)
Length: 10 Tracks (47:20 minutes)
It has often been said that the most poignant works of art are birthed out of tragedy Shortly after the death of his brother in early 2000, singer Al Denson suffered a period of severe writer's block. After a consultation with friends, Denson was encouraged to put his songwriting efforts on the back burner and immerse himself in the great hymns of the faith as a means towards eventual healing. Denson's latest effort, With One Voice - itself a mixture of new material and classic refrains - comes as the fruit of his months spent meditating on these time-honored pieces of music.
Given that it features a diverse backing cast and leans in a praise-oriented direction, the Voice release seems destined to draw comparisons to the now-popular City on a Hill worship series. True to that analogy, tracks like the Christ Tabernacle Choir-backed "Alive in Us" and the striking Denson/Lisa Bevill duet "Holy Is the Lord/He Is Exalted" do feature a certain austere, semi-organic underpinning that allies them broadly with the COAH releases. The album-opening "Undivided," on the other hand, finds Denson and Babbie Mason delivering a rousing, gospel-tinged cry for spiritual unity. And the Martins' tight, soaring harmony work on the beautifully melancholy "Jesus, I Am Yours/I Surrender All" steers things in a decidedly Southern Gospel vein.
The album does lose a bit of steam near its end, and a handful of the songs sound as if they could have been lifted from Denson's late '80s or early '90s period, which tends to give Voice a slightly dated feel. These minor quibbles aside, the synergy between Denson and his talented and diverse backing crew transcends the lion's share of the record's musical lapses, and Denson's songwriting possesses a depth and sincerity that are hard not to get swept up into. While the Voice project isn't likely to draw many new converts from the modern worship contingent, it nevertheless stacks up nicely against the bulk of Denson's back catalog and looks to be a fine fit both with longtime Denson fans and those whose hymnals still receive a regular workout.
Bert Gangl 11/30/2002