Live From New Orleans
Independent (release date: April 28, 2023)
By Robert M. Marovich
Those who follow JGM know that Praise & Worship is not my favorite gospel subgenre, but when it’s done well, as it is on Bethany Music’s album, Live From New Orleans, I tip my hat in respect.
Recorded in May 2022 at the sixty-year-old church’s newly-planted New Orleans campus, the thirteen original songs are supplied by a talented team that includes worship leader BJ Putnam and superb singers such as Danielle Burns, Nick Day, and Charlin Neal (JGM interviewed Charlin back in 2016).
Bethany Music blends the melodicism of Hillsong with the expansive and heartrending singing of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. Fresh, bright, pulsing with optimism, well produced and orchestrated, Live From New Orleans is like an oratorio of contemporary songs, arrangements and expressions that follow one another in a seamless procession in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Still, some parts deserve special mention. “OMG” is a gush of glee about the freedom experienced in salvation. “Glorified” has the regal stature of an old church anthem. Not the beloved Protestant hymn but a new song, “Holy Holy Holy” is a dramatic expression of awe in the presence of a God beautiful beyond measure. The equally affecting “Holy Ground” is an extended worship selection that settles the soul like musical melatonin. By the conclusion, the audience is singing along in rapturous harmony.
“Have My Heart Again” is the album’s finest track, a love song to the Lord dressed up in a pretty pop ballad. Pop balladry is also in evidence on “Pearl of Great Price.” Taking for its text Matthew 13:45-46, it declares how much one would spend just to be a disciple.
Live From New Orleans delivers marvelous singing, well-written songs, professional musicians, and all of it expertly curated. It’s a worship experience in a jewel case.
Five of Five Stars
Picks: “Have My Heart Again,” “Holy Holy Holy,” “Just One Drop”