Beyond the vocal dexterity and even the emotion, there’s that elusive, ephemeral element that we know as spirit - and that’s what makes this project work…
Somewhere Between Blues and Hymns
indie label / MBK
8 tracks 29:05
They say there’s a good side to every problem. Maybe one of the good things about a year of lock-down is that it gave people like Tim Miner more studio time. After waiting for more than a decade, Miner’s fans finally got new music in the form of the wonderful Come Home For Christmas project. Now, a few months later we get Somewhere Between Blues and Hymns, a tribute to Tim’s late grandfather and a way of handing down the great hymns that so many of us grew up on to a new generation.
There was a time when it seemed like every third Christian artist was doing a hymns project, and - to be honest - the idea had pretty much run its course. Of course, nobody did it quite the way Tim Miner’s done it. For one thing, you know it’s got to be funky - and it is. Aside from the irresistible grooves that Miner’s infused into these songs - most of which are more than a century old - he’s brought to the musical table something much more important, and that is heart. Oh, you can call it soul - after all, Miner is an amazing soul singer - but beyond the vocal dexterity and even the emotion, there’s that elusive, ephemeral element that we know as spirit - and that’s what makes this project work. This is more than an attempt at ‘modernizing’ familiar hymns – those attempts often were laborious exercises at marketing. Tim obviously loves these wonderful songs. “I didn’t want these great songs from my childhood to be forgotten and lost by future generations,” he says. By essentially preserving the melodies and putting them into contemporary settings he’s putting his plan into motion in an impressive way.
It could be argued that the blues was inherent in gospel music from the very beginning, and that the two genres are largely responsible for soul, so it’s no surprise (but it is a treat!) to hear the melody of “Wade in the Water” stated in the opening moments of “All Get to Heaven.” The song is a funky gospel party with thumping bass, tight drums, guitar, and fantastic lead, back-up, and harmony vocals by Miner. Two and a-half minutes into the song, an unmistakable Jackson Five riff (“I Want You Back”) ushers in “Lord I Lift your Name On High,” ending the first track as a two-fer.
“I Would Not Be Denied” and “In My Heart” carry on with classic gospel songs sounding like fresh jams, proving you can sing the words “’twas” and “’twill” and still sound cool.
The pace slows down at exactly the right time with “Oh I Want to See Him,” allowing Miner to really exercise those soulful vocal riffs, showing a subtle affinity for the likes of Bebe and Marvin Winans, at least to my ears. The modulation on the simple word, “Oh” at a little over two minutes in is a beautiful moment, underscored by the growing swells of a very churchy organ that ends the song to great effect.
As a bonus, we get a couple of mini-Miners on “Jesus Loves Me,” as Tim’s sons get into the act. Colton starts the song with the familiar first verse, then TJ takes the song into more of a hip-hop mode. With some atmospheric samples and TJs vocals, the song ventures a bit into MuteMath territory in the second half. This is followed by the title track, where Miner stretches out a bit, becoming the house band here, choosing to give his own testimonial while performing a textbook blues.
Beats and samples provide a modern setting for “How Great Thou Art,” which ends with a more traditional coda featuring just voice, guitar and synth strings – a perfect set-up for what ends the album.
Going acoustic for the final ‘bonus’ track, Miner accompanies himself on guitar for “The Hymns Medley,” stripping the songs to their basics and pouring his soul and spirit into each phrase. The artist slips seamlessly from “Draw me Nearer” to “Leaning on The Everlasting Arms,” and finally to “It is No Secret What God Can Do.” It’s the man, his guitar, and subtle string arrangements – and it’s enough. Tim Miner proves on Somewhere Between Blues and Hymns that a timeless message can shine through in any setting.
For concert photography by Bert Saraco, visit: www.facebook.com/express.image