Gospel Songs by Lee Hawkins, Volume One
Devine Jamz (release date: July 2021)
By Robert M. Marovich
Here’s something you don’t see that often: an “…and then I wrote” compilation of gospel and praise & worship songs.
Produced, arranged, and composed by award-winning songwriter Lee Hawkins, by day a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Gospel Songs Volume One is a collection of well-produced demos of eight Hawkins songs delivered by young and talented artists.
Hawkins’ thoroughly contemporary compositions are unvarying, introspective, serious, lyrical, melodic, and with a hint of classical influence. For example, both the unplugged and P&W versions of “Washed in the Blood” (the album offers two different settings for several compositions) are smoothly-rendered evocations of the relieving joy of salvation. For my money, I prefer the female-led P&W version, with the drum line percussion.
One version of “The Kingdom’s Come” benefits from pop-infused lead vocals by Ryan Whyte Maloney from Season 6 of The Voice and a team of skilled background vocalists. “Jesus Would Never” trots out a litany of disreputable behavior (cheating, child abuse, backbiting, lying, hating on someone’s dreams, bullying) to comment on holier-than-thou hypocrisy while also celebrating Jesus’ limitless forgiveness.
“No Weapon” is an energetic piece ideal for a small gospel group or choir. So is the worship service opener, “We’ve Come to Praise Him,” though the repetitive intro could be shortened significantly without any loss of quality. Both the choral and modern quartet versions of “Forgiven” possess the melody and lyrics of CCM but the arrangement and delivery of gospel. The sole instrumental, “Calvary,” employs a wistful melody, driven by beautifully keening strings, to express the profound sorrow of the crucifixion.
“Forgiven” and “Washed in the Blood” stand the best chance of getting a cover, but I can’t imagine CCM and gospel singers and groups not finding something they can use to great benefit in Gospel Songs Volume One.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Forgiven,” “Washed in the Blood”