I’ve been encouraged by the attention hymns have been getting recently. Not because I’m a fan of hymns in general, but because hymns tend to allow for a greater development of the truths we’re singing. I currently have hymns albums from Sojourn Music (The War & The Mercy Seat), Indelible Grace (The Hymn Sing), and Page CXVI (Hymns III), which I hope to review in the near future. Mike Cosper has also started a series on hymns over at the Gospel Coalition site.
But this post is about a hymns album I received last fall and am just getting around to reviewing. It’s the work of David Potter and is called Man of Sorrows Glorious King. The album contains ten hymns (reworked and original) and bonus acoustic versions of three of those.
I’ve never actually met David Potter, but I’m sure I will at some point. When we first started corresponding he was in Omaha, Nebraska. Now he’s a student at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis and part of the Journey Church.
The production on the album is primarily an acoustic guitar driven band sound that brings a cohesiveness to the project. Nothing fancy, but solid. David has a voice that’s easy and enjoyable to listen to. The album may not blow you away with production tricks, but what comes through is a musician who is serious about providing songs filled with gospel-centered truth that the church can actually sing.
Here’s the track listing and a few comments:
Man of Sorrows – fresh treatment of the Philip Bliss hymn, Hallelujah! What a Savior.
All Creatures of Our God and King – bluesy, driving version of this classic, with a new melody
You Are the One – original 6/8 song that magnifies the God’s greatness is seen both in his transcendence and his immanence
Rock of Ages – original lyrics/tune with a new chorus, that makes it a whole new song
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus – great new tune to a already great lyric. A new chorus doesn’t hurt either.
There is a Fountain – new tune to William Cowper’s lyrics. This one wasn’t a stand out for me.
The Greatness of HIs Mercy – again, great new music to some great lyrics that celebrate the effect of Jesus’ sacrifice
Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah – the other song I’m not really crazy about, but I’m sure some will say this is their favorite song. Kind of blues/minor. Not sure the music complements the lyrics here.
Lord You Are a Shield – based loosely on Ps. 3. Great song for those going through trials and persecution.
Be Thou My Vision – pretty straight version of an amazing hymn
My iTunes tells me I’ve listened to this album about 5 times. Actually, it’s about 7. And that’s how many times I’ve enjoyed it. If you’d like to hear it, you can visit David’s site on bandcamp.com. David is graciously offering 20% discount if you simply type “worshipmatters” as the discount code.
UPDATE: Download the MP3 and guitar charts for Man of Sorrows.
To find out more about David you can check out his site or find him on Facebook.
Thanks for this post. I really appreciate your album reviews and find them very helpful.
I tried to purchase with the code “worshipmatters”, but it would not accept the code. Is it live yet?
David, it’s supposed to be live. I’ll check with David.
Thanks for pointing this out! I AM a fan of hymns in general, much for the same reasons you share above. Great album! He’s been added to our (now long) list of artists setting old hymns to new music:
Love this album! Great work!
This is a bit off topic as it doesn’t relate to this particular album.. But… I guess I am still a bit “old school” .. I think that there are some hymns that are so well crafted and integrated (music to lyric) that the music should be altered as little as possible (perhaps a rhythm or dynamic change) to bring them into a “contemporary context.” There are exceptions (like your renditions of “The Look” and “Alas”) but sometimes I feel like we are trying to “better” a classic – like trying to remake “Casablanca” or “Gone with the Wind” and you just don’t do that… IMHO
Bought it. Dig it. Thanks for sharing!
The code is working now. Just purchased the album. Thanks for the review! Really enjoying it.
Listening to David Potter’s sound reminded me of Josh Garrels http://www.joshgarrels.com/
As a musician myself, I highly enjoy the hymns because of the biblical truths still found within them. Some, however, prefer that the music changes, going from a traditional piano/organ setting to more contemporary feel. Personally, I don’t feel there is much of a problem. If the focus is to exalt the King, then what does the music have to do with anything?
I love to pull out an old hymnal and sing old hymns – but there are a lot of them I don’t know the original tunes to and since I’m not a musician I’m limited in being able to learn them. But even for the ones I do know, I find there is something fresh about hearing them put to new tunes by gifted musicians who are seeking to glorify God. Sometimes a treasure of truth in a hymn will hit me in a new way when I hear it put to a new tune. Like the old hymns on the NEXT 2009 CD – “All hail the power of Jesus’ name,” “Man of Sorrows” and “Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus” I have sung these hymns for years but I have never worshipped through them so deeply or been so blessed as I have been this past year singing these along with the CD. Thank you for the time and effort you songwriters put into doing this. My soul has been so nourished!
What could be more compelling than the mandate given to sing a new song?
The book of Psalms is a testament that music is not canonized. If it where, then we would have chord charts and melody lines (or however the Psalmist penned his music) adding pages and pages to our God breathed Bible. I write this as a matter of fact. I don’t think there’s much debate there. Truth is the only thing in our worship songs that can not and never will change. Music and how it’s played will and can by God’s design.
Can you imagine if we sang the melodies of the actual Psalms them selfs, as originally written. We would be lost! Sure, the music phenoms like Mr. Kauflin here, would be intrigued and fascinated by this ancient form of melody and harmony. But for the most part the congregation would get lost, unable to joint in w/ lifting their voices in praise to the Almighty One. Why? Because we are people of our culture. We listen to music our culture produces and therefore join in and sing to that which we “like” or are use too.
Changing hymn melodies and lyrics is all fine, in my book. I see the wisdom of updating the music and phrasing of the words to reflect what our culture is use to. Hey, I’m the first to say we need to follow Jesus and not the culture. But, by God’s design, music is morally neutral (I know, that’s debatable). And as such we have liberty to choose what music we what to use to sing praises to our Lord, as long as our motive is to bring glory to Christ. Our hearts and truth are not morally neutral and as such are the keys to what makes a great worship song.
But that doesn’t mean we should change the melody or phrasing of a hymn. Just as truth forms our words in our worship, so too it forms our hearts as we look to lead our congregation in love. As we have the liberty to change hymns, by God’s grace, we need not use our liberty as a vise. There are some who do believe that some hymns should not be changed and they might attend your church. Some attend mine. They could get offended by the Thy to the You and the choppy chord progression to a smoother simplified one or the piano/organ based song to a trendy poppy beat. And as a worship leader I need to be at peace with all men as much as it is possible with me. Sure I may not agree with them, but I would not use my ability and freedom to change a song knowing they might get offended. Now instead of leading them in song I might have caused them to stumble over anger. What kind of worship leader would I be, leading them to the Rock that is Higher then I and then throwing stumbling blocks along the way. My pride will not get the best of me. May it not get the best of anyone. Consider others as more important.
So, I say, use wisdom and judgement while always using the lens of love. Music will change and is changing. That’s great, I welcome it, I’m apart of it. Make those albums, I want to hear them! I’ve taken my crack at old hymn text to new melodies. But if my melody will cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble I won’t use it.
I’m glad to see a CD of hymns with updated music. As I teach and talk about music at church, I often tell people that when a hymn has newer music it causes us to become more aware of the words we are singing. When we sing something very familiar our minds occasionally go on autopilot and we miss the import of what is happening. It becomes merely an exercise. However, with a different melody, we are moved to approach a hymn with more intent. We find emphasis on words we previously passed over. Newer music often causes us to become more active in the singing and worship.
Thanks for reviewing this album.
I like the fact that Potter has provided new tunes for some hymns that have intrinsic links with their old tunes. (ie weren’t broke).
The tunes for All Creatures Of Our God And King and Guide Me were singable and suited the words.
If a group wanted to use these words and didn’t know the old tunes, these would work.
First, hymns were written in a context that made sense when they were written. Sometimes it’s necessary and I think perfectly acceptable to change a few lryics to make it more current and relevant for today’s worshippers.
Second, and similarily, music style has changed dramatically. Like myself, many people love the richness of truth and doctrine in the lyrics of a hymn, but also find them a little dry and lacking musically. Sprucing up a hymn musically can be a powerful way to provoke a fresh response in worship.
Thanks for the post, and I appreciate the effort to rearrange hymns. I think the main reason to update hymns has to do with updating chord structures and patterns. This is sometimes neglected, but it is not merely a matter of instrumentation. As you know, simply adding guitar does not make a hymn contemporary. We forget that arrangements are also part of the “language,” just how authors vary their sentence structure. We need to be cognizant of this as musicians — not berating people for being born in a different time period, but being sensitive to how culture has changed. Certain chords (e.g., a diminished chord) just aren’t as common in popular music these days, and it can sometimes create an extra barrier that prevents people from focusing on the lyrics of our worship sons. For that reason, it’s beneficial to rearrange hymns, so that more people can appreciate them — even if they are slightly updated.
The album is also on Spotify
The album on Amazon is cheaper than the discount.
I listened to all the samples…and I have to admit, I don’t like it.
I really like this album. And in all humility, you know, no judgement on anyone’s preferences, I do keep coming back to the hymns (the theologically sound ones, anyway). Interaction with the hymns is a little like interaction with Shakespeare. One person can be brought to tears while the other is left totally flat. It’s just about speaking the language. Personally, I love the artistic and creative use of the language before it got reduced to around 500 words or so. I also love the varied focus of hymns, on those aspects of God that often get short shrift nowadays.
I mean this in all humor and good-nature because I do love to play some modern worship songs – but to me, a lot of modern worship tunes are a little like Taco Bell. Lyrically, it’s the same 6 or 7 elements just assembled in seemingly infinite variations. Hey, nothing wrong with it – but in my heart of hearts, I do think some of the aesthetic beauty of creative, unique and careful language has been lost. Now it seems more like things are driven by a keyword lookup table, because we are a culture that is in a hurry.
Don’t misunderstand – it’s a *small* thing and I’d belt out a modern worship song in a church every week where the gospel was being proclaimed, before singing the most wonderfully nuanced and rich hymn somewhere else.
Anyway, great album! Particularly love the doxology chant at the end of All Creatures of our God and King. :-)