katherine burton 001Katherine Burton
The Lord is On My Side
New Dawn Music (2014)

By Bob Marovich

The violin has had a dalliance with gospel music throughout the genre’s history, although more so as of late, due to the cross-pollination of musical styles in the inspirational/gospel category. Brooke “Viosocalist” Alford and Kersten Stevens are two musicians who have recorded gospel jazz projects recently with violin as the main instrument.

Katherine Burton is another. A graduate of Temple University College of Music and instrumentalist at a variety of gospel conventions, including the Gospel Workshop of America, Burton rosins up the bow to interpret hymns, gospel songs, and praise and worship favorites on The Lord is On My Side. While she sings a bit, Burton mostly lets the violin do the talking.

And talking it does. Like the steel guitar and organ, the violin is an additional voice, chirping, keening, and getting happy along to the music. Burton plays the hair off the violin bow as she puts her imprint on sacred songs.  Her interpretation of recent hits such as “Break Every Chain,” “Take Me to the King,” and “Every Praise” demonstrate how comfortable the violin is as a vehicle for gospel jazz and P&W.

In several instances, Burton gives the songs a Celtic lilt, such as on “Blessed Assurance” and the touching medley, “Tis So Sweet”/”No Not One.” The combination of violin and keys on the dramatic “There Is a Fountain” is reminiscent of the new age duo Secret Garden.

The Hawkins-flavored title track and single combines Burton’s vocals and violin, while additional singers Annette Hardeman (wife of Gabriel Hardeman and member of the Delegation) and bass William Beverly Jr. offer contrapuntal parts, giving the performance a classical choral touch. The album and radio edits of the song, however, render the four minute reprise overkill.

The Lord is On My Side is elegant and lovely, and will no doubt be welcome in many churches.  Even if inspirational jazz is not your cup of tea, you can’t help but applaud Katherine Burton’s deft musicianship, classically-inspired arrangements, and heart-rending melodies.

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “The Lord is On My Side,” “’Tis So Sweet/No, Not One.”

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.