Jonathan Butler Grace and Mercy album cover. A pleasant, unpretentious album that avoids the 'conveyer belt' feeling of many contemporary gospel projects, revealing the heart of the artist minus the histrionics.....
Grace and Mercy
Jonathan Butler
11 tracks / 59 minutes

Jonathan Butler is no stranger to success in the secular marketplace. The South African native was becoming a household name as part of the jazz-rock band, Pacific Express and eventually landed a solo deal with Jive Records, whose best-known act was The Backstreet Boys. From about 2004 on, Butler's output has strongly reflected his Christian faith, which brings us to the guitarist/singer/songwriter's current project, Grace and Mercy.

As the rather generic title suggests, Butler is not setting out to revolutionize contemporary gospel music on this accessible, well-executed collection of songs. Equally rooted in gospel, pop, R & B, and smooth jazz, the album starts with what might be its weakest track, the somewhat repetitive and meandering "You're All That I Need," but gets progressively better. The strength of the project is Butler himself, who manages to shine through the material with an infectious joy and genuineness in his performance. In fact, it's toward the end of the album, where production seems less important, that we get Butler communicating on a more visceral level, revealing the heart of this collection (which, ultimately, is the 'heart' of this performer).

Without falling into the category of (the dreaded) 'praise and worship' genre, Butler does manage to offer very worshipful, personal songs throughout the eleven tracks. The compositions are fairly simple, singable tunes with a sophisticated edge, tasteful guitar (from Butler) and first-rate performances from drums, bass, keyboards and back-up singers. Butler himself has an enjoyable vocal delivery with soulful phrasing that occasionally shows similarities to Stevie Wonder, and (especially) blue-eyed gospel soul-man, Jon Gibson (or is that redundant?).

Grace and Mercy is a pleasant, unpretentious album that avoids the 'conveyer belt' feeling of many contemporary gospel projects, revealing a real sense of the artist (especially in the latter part of the project) and manages to leave the listener with a sense of peace that few 'establishment' releases seem to be able to do.

-Bert Saraco


{module Possibly Related Articles - Also search our Legacy Site}