Songs from the Potter's Field
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Nov
A popular mainstay in the genre of inspirational adult contemporary for 15 years, beginning with his 1986 debut,
The intriguing title track is as good a place to start as any. "The Potter's Field" is inspired by Matthew 27 and explains what happened to the 30 pieces of silver for which Judas betrayed Jesus. After Judas committed suicide, the silver was used to purchase a field where potters would dispose of their broken works – it's like a junkyard, or a graveyard of shattered pottery. It was also a place where paupers and strangers were buried. Ray weaves a metaphor between the field and Jesus' saving work for us. We are the broken vessels, and though blood money bought the mud, we were purchased and saved by the blood of Christ. Yes, it's a bit of a stretch, but it's also rather thoughtful. Equally interesting is "Hey, Little Brother," a sort of epilogue to the parable of the prodigal son, with the elder brother finally offering his wayward sibling a warm welcome: "I must confess I was quite envious when I heard what Father planned to do / But after I talked to him, I realized I had been almost as far from home as you." The song sounds a bit like Paul Simon, Michael Card, and Rich Mullins, featuring an upbeat folksy, nearly Cajun country sound, and including an accordion, hammer dulcimer, banjo, and a fine acoustic guitar solo. "Loving Each Other" is a sweet and gentle folk song akin to the music of Marc Cohn, James Taylor, and Ceili Rain. It was inspired by Ray's visit to The New Life Home for Abandoned Babies in Nairobi, sponsored by Mission of Mercy, with whom Ray has had a longtime partnership.
Part of the joy in listening to
The Ray Boltz that most of us remember appears in a few tracks that predictably explain themselves in the titles. "Never Lost" is a vintage adult contemporary ballad of inspiration, likening the trials we face every day to the storm Jesus' disciples were caught in: "Never lost, he knows where you're going / Never lost, even though the wind is blowing / And there may be some stormy seas he says you must cross / But with Jesus at your side, you're never lost." "Give Me Your Hand" is an acoustic track in the style of James Taylor and Jim Croce, but it plays like a textbook inspirational song about Jesus lifting us up when we fall: "Give me your hand, I'll lift you up / Don't be afraid. You just have to trust / I have been there in the place you stand / There's no need to fear. That's why I'm here." The closing piano ballad, "Never Let You Fall," is similarly self-explanatory and basic in its testimony of the unfailing presence of our heavenly Father. No doubt songs such as these will inspire some with the messages and bore others with their simplistic reworking of other Christian adult contemporary songs from the last 20 years.
Still, credit Ray with stepping outside the usual pop genre and trying something a little different. This is a pretty and mellow inspirational album with generally simplistic and understated production. Despite some routine tracks, Ray is capable of some thought-provoking and inspiring songwriting, as many of his fans have known for some time.