Review

LABEL: KINGSWAY 
RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 15, 2011

I

like my hymns traditional. I love the timelessness of singing a song that was written in centuries past. I love that although the words may hail from bygone eras, they are still and always will be relevant for the here and now. I do not appreciate frivolous attempts to ‘revamp’ hymns. It dilutes their purity and diminishes their effectiveness. I dislike worship leaders adapting hymns so they sound like any other contemporary worship songs. So what do I am doing reviewing what is essentially a project of remixed hymns?

When I heard that Leigh Nash was doing a hymns project, I was scared. I thought she’d ruin my favourite hymns with weird modern interpretations, but prayed she’ll literally sing from the hymn book. Obviously, I’m glad she didn’t choose the former, but strangely enough I’m also pleased she didn’t choose the latter. Nash has a remarkable voice. She is no stranger to music making. Her voice is distinctive, instantly recognisable as the voice of the wildly successful Sixpence None the Richer. And in Hymns & Sacred Songs, you get the best of both worlds: fantastic vocals put to life-changing truths.

The project opens with “Saviour, Like A Shepherd (Blessed Jesus)”, but had I not read this beforehand I would never have known. Whilst the words are largely the same, the musical composition is unrecognisable when compared to the original. Nash chose to rework the hymns, and although the lyrics are faithful to the originals, the music is not. Instead, she experiments with a simple blue-grass, Southern acoustic sound throughout. I would be lying to say it doesn’t work. It’s clean, fresh and interesting.

“Out Of My Bondage”, “Oh Heart Bereaved and Lonely” and “Be Still My Soul” are among the classics that Nash adapts. All are tastefully done with beautiful new arrangements. Nash re-introduces us to these old favourites, breathing life into each, making them her own. However, the new “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” lacks the depth of feeling that is innate in the old. Similarly, I felt that the remix “Power of the Cross” wasn’t as captivating as the original.

Despite my dreadful bias against the concept behind this project, it would be foolish for me not to acknowledge that “Hymns and Sacred Songs” is an invaluable tool. It introduces the beauty and power of hymns to the legions of people who wouldn’t otherwise bother with what they perceive as old-fashioned, out-dated music. There are some truly exceptional tracks on the project. Leigh Nash’s rendition of “Oh Heart Bereaved and Lonely” is spectacular, and “Isaiah 55” is fantastically done.

Technically, the album is a masterpiece. The music itself is flawless and constructed in such a way that the modern “Give Myself to You” flows perfectly to the ancient “Come Ye Thankful People Come”. There is an undeniable sense of unity and harmony. Despite this being her first album in five years, it is clear that Leigh Nash has only grown in her creative skills.

Hymns and Sacred Songs grew on me, which is a testimony to the creative talent of Leigh Nash. I was militantly opposed to the idea when I started listening, but by the end, Nash’s sweet voice won me over.  Although I remain a traditionalist, I’m excited about these hymns’ new exposure, and the fact that Nash is back in action (it’s been far too long) – this project has just left me wondering what to expect next.