Conservative Christian music gets something of a bum rap.

King of the Night
Forever be Sure
CD Baby

Conservative Christian music gets something of a bum rap.

If you're unfamiliar with the it, think of the other, more popularly abbreviated cCm. Conservative Christian music is something of the aesthetic opposite of contemporary Christian music. If it smacks of modernity, as probably reasonably defined as anything smacking of influences postdating Bill Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around The Clock" on the pop chart and certainly if a drum kit can be heard on it, it's probably too modern-and by some folks' connotations and, maybe, imaginations, worldly-for those who prefer the most discernible melodic structures possible and not a hint of feedback.

The late founder of the radio network through which I get my greatest exposure to the other (reactionary?) cCm, because I like some of its teaching & preaching shows, put the point of demarcation a bit later than that, when he was at a meeting of Christian broadcasters where Light Records founder Ralph Carmichael set out to impose a newfangeled orthodoxy upon sacred music. Around the same time, bands spawned from the hippies of the Jesus movement started recording songs to and about the Lord in the vernacular styles they knew best.

And though that season of youth revivalism has had its good and bad historical consequences, not everyone was going to like the tunes coming out of it. Certainly, by the time"Jesus music" got corporately rebranded as "contemporary Christian music." the conservative counter-surge was established.

Forever Be Sure get Christian musical conservatism wonderfully right. The malleable vocal group with members from several states has a female trio at their core. Their sometimes co-ed harmonizing shines in either a capella context or with unstated accompaniment of violin, piano and clarinet on their latest CD, King of the Night.

Unlike so much conservative music, FBS rely on songs of their own making. And they adapt from historical sources to some lovely ends. The set's titular cut interpolates from Brahms' "Lullaby" to a meditation on the Lord being the deity over physical and spiritual darkness. "Something To Sing About" could be an African-American jubilee number had the late 19th and early 20th century had been the time of the pop jazz of the Hi-Lo's or the Manhattan Transfer. More modernly, "For Today," to my ears, imagines the lushness of '80s Sandi Patty where the only thing billowing majestically from the speakers is vocals. "Savior, Rich in Mercy," conversely, could be taken as a long lost Lutheran hymn;it also provides one of the rare opportunities to hear the ensemble's men take the lead, though not for the entire song.

Anyone unfamiliar with Christian musical conservatism who think it's all upbeat and cheery should be heartened at the group's use of minor keys. "The Cross Bearing Road" marries tonal somberness to a lamentation over those for whom the blessed Way is too tough and tiring. Earlier in the album, "Take Up This Battle With Me" offers something of a positive complement to encourage each other in the faith true believers share.

Another of those minor key pieces ends King of the Night with a laugh, though one with a point. "The Drip, Drip Song" uses Proverbs 27:15's admonition to contentious wives as a starting point for the Sure ladies to ham it up with complaints directed at their other halves. Were operetta maestros Gilbert and Sullivan to have been biblically literate and in a mood to write a comedic piece for distaff classical vocal quartet, this could be well have been the result. And though Dr. Demento has been playing some bawdier material on his comedy music show since he relegated it to being an internet-only program, I would encourage FBS to send hm their latest CD, mark this track as the go-to selection, and hope for this can offer some substantive silliness to the top-hatted DJ's proceedings.

Even without that closing salvo-listed as a bonus track to offset it from the more devotional ambiance preceding it? King of the Night is the sort of exquisitely executed, scripturally rich work that would be welcome on certain Christian radio formats if given the opportunity. And considering the history of acts whose names are complete sentences, Forever Be Sure is surely one of the better ones, both the act and their name.

-Jamie Lee Rake