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Bound for Glory

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Jun
Bound for Glory
Sounds like … the bluesy, rootsy hymns projects of Ashley Cleveland and Amy Grant as performed by blues greats such as Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Muddy Waters. At a glance … Bound for Glory is fine for what it is, but Kaiser might have yielded a better blues-worship album if more thought went into creative arrangements and extended jams for the hymnsTrack Listing God's Not Dead I've Been Redeemed Since I Laid My Burdens Down Softly and Tenderly This Train At the Cross Go Tell It on the Mountain There Is No One I've Got That Joy All Hail the Power I'll Fly Away Doxology

Perhaps there's a correlation, but it's almost poetic that one of today's most woefully underappreciated Christian artists is focused on one of the most woefully underappreciated musical genres in Christian music. A veteran guitarist best known for fronting the Rez Band and founding Jesus People USA, Glenn Kaiser has spent the last ten years fully embracing his love of the blues. With Bound for Glory, he fuses that with his reverence for classic hymns, spirituals, and praise choruses.

Which generally sums up any expectations for this release, save that the majority of tracks are stripped down to little more than Kaiser and his guitar. Such intimacy works on his slow, almost unrecognizable rendition of "I'll Fly Away," in which he gives one of his most passionate and soulful vocals, while "Softly and Tenderly" and "At the Cross" offer some pleasant acoustic respite amid the grittier blues tracks. But "There Is No One," "All Hail the Power," and "I've Been Redeemed" can barely be called arrangements because they're so straightforward and unadorned. And though "Go Tell It on the Mountain" may be skimpier with instrumentation, it's no blues-ier than Steven Curtis Chapman's recent cover on his second Christmas album.

The few band tracks, featuring Roy Montroy and Ed Bialach from Kaiser's blues trio, aren't much more compelling. There's spark to their version of the beloved children's spiritual "I've Got That Joy," but "This Train" and "God's Not Dead" more or less play out as expected. What's missing is the originality of Kaiser's far superior Ripley County Blues. Or the sense of distinction and surprise that comes from overhauling hymns for blues and Americana, as Ashley Cleveland did on Men and Angels Say and Amy Grant on Rock of Ages. Here, the song choices are more predictable because they're so suited to the genre. Bound for Glory is fine for what it is, but lacks the inventive arrangements and unrestrained musicianship that have characterized Kaiser's better albums.

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