Sounds like … the dc Talk vocalist singing gospel standards (and more recent gospel-ish songs), blending styles in a manner reminiscent of Mike Farris, Johnny Cash, and The Blind Boys of AlabamaAt a glance … Kevin Max may have been going for "stylized adaptations" of gospel classics on The Blood, but the arrangements are derivative of similar projects and too predictable to be considered innovative or creativeTrack Listing The Old Rugged Cross The Cross Run On for a Long Time Trouble of the World I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole Up Above My Head I Hear Music in the Air They Won't Go When I Go The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power People Get Ready One Way-One Blood

Whether expressing himself personally, spiritually, or musically, Kevin Max has long been something of an enigma in Christian music. Though he's brought freshness and creativity to the scene, he's never comfortably settled into a solo career with an identifiable sound for more than one album. Some would cite that as proof that Max can't be bound by conventions, but others would counter that he's yet to figure himself out as an artist. Revisiting his previous solo projects (beginning with 2001's Stereotype Be), there's evidence for both sides—a singer/songwriter who strives for innovation, but often compromises it by relying too heavily on his varied influences.

That's exactly what happens again on The Blood. Max is quick to point out that this is not a hymns project or a worship album. But it is still an album of cover songs—namely, "stylized adaptations" of the gospel classics that influenced pop and rock. (Never mind that 4 of the 10 tracks were written in the last 40 years, and thus couldn't have influenced the pop/rock pioneers of the '40s and '50s.)

There's no question that Max has gathered an amazingly diverse list of talent for this project—starting with producer Will Owsley (Amy Grant's guitarist and a talented solo artist in his own right). Along with a number of prominent session musicians (including B3 master Phil Madeira and multi-instrumentalist John Painter), there are enough guest artists here to credit the album as "Kevin Max and Friends."

Unfortunately, the adaptations are more routine than stylized. The album begins with a throwaway cover of "The Old Rugged Cross," with Max doing his best Johnny Cash impersonation to tinny EQ and record scratches, reproducing old-time production values. Other than shortening the hymn to a one-verse prologue, he's done nothing with the song that's different from classic recordings … and that's pretty much the case throughout.

p>Much is being made of this album's rendition of Prince's "The Cross" because it reunites dc Talk. Of course, the three members have already reconvened for a 2004 remix of tobyMac's "Atmosphere" and their 2002 song "Let's Roll" (a tribute to Todd Beamer). Once you get past the novelty of the reunion, the cover's not all that interesting—Michael Tait is featured for a verse, tobyMac yowls in the background, and it ultimately become repetitive. The Blind Boys of Alabama did a similar but superior (and less repetitive) adaptation of the song for their 2002 album Higher Ground. Max seems to be a Blind Boys fan, since he also covers the group's cover of "Run On for a Long Time" (from 2001's Spirit of the Century) with American Idol finalist Chris Sligh—again, with lesser results.