by Mark Woodhouse
I once tried to write a song, hoping to sing it in my church. It. Was. Bad.
Jess Alldredge and the music team from Grace Church Seattle have done a much better job than me. Under the guise of ‘Emerald Hymns’, they’ve written some original songs and reworked some hidden classics, and have released them on the album Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.
This album was crowd funded and recorded on a shoestring budget, which is a truly remarkable achievement! But unfortunately, the production is its weakest point. It’s not necessarily bad production, but it does lack punch and presence, and leaves the album feeling a little weak and lacking energy.
The lyrics are not always poetically beautiful, and in places they’re quite clunky and a little hard to sing. But they are the (appropriated) words of scripture. In that respect, they point us to the beauty of God’s mercy, and that’s a wonderful and valuable thing for songs we sing in church together. The prayers of the Bible are put to song, and John the Baptist features heavily, encouraging us to look to Christ. These are edifying lyrics.
And in the middle section of the album, we get a run of five songs that each feature only one or two lines of lyrics, repeated often. ‘Christ have mercy on me, Lord have mercy on me’ – for 2 minutes and 13 seconds. Is it lyrically shallow, or is it an opportunity for extended meditation on these gospel truths and prayers? Sitting here in the middle of the album and surrounded by Scriptural truths, I’m inclined to think the latter. I think these songs would lose their impact when sung individually.
Would I sing these songs in my church? Well, my church doesn’t have a fourteen-piece band or a flugelhorn, so we’d need to play them differently. I would love to sing scriptural, reflective songs like these more often, but none of these songs jump out as one I’d be itching to introduce.
The Verdict: There’s no weak track on this album, but there’s no standout track either. No track has lodged itself in my head. Emerald Hymns haven’t nailed it, but they’ve given us an intriguingly different take on singing reflectively in church. If you like Kings Kaleidoscope, you’ll probably like this as well. 3/5
Psalms, Hymns, & Spiritual Songs by Emerald Hymns is available now on Bandcamp.