When I saw this past weekend that Chris Allman was re-releasing one of his solo albums as a digital download, I knew immediately it was something I wanted to pick up. As an old-school southern gospel harmony fan, I generally am not intrigued much by solo projects, but I make exceptions when it comes to my very favorite vocalists. Chris Allman is one of those. And since I only became aware of Allman’s existence in the last few years as I obtained Greater Vision’s early music, I did not have the opportunity to enjoy his solo projects when they were originally released.
His Faithfulness is Allman’s most recent solo effort, originally released in 1999. Having only heard him in Greater Vision’s context, I didn’t know exactly what kind of music to expect. What I found upon downloading the album was Allman adapting his soulful delivery to an enjoyable variety of gospel styles. I was also pleased to find four songs I was already familiar with and like, including two of the five Allman compositions on the project. Recording solo inevitably gives the vocalist freedom to explore his full range and ability, and this is no exception. Allman hits some notes on this project I haven’t heard him reach with Greater Vision, and his improvisations are well-executed. In summary, what I can say right off the bat is that this recording sounds great.
The two songs written by Allman that I had heard before were both recorded on the Mark Trammell Trio’s Once Upon a Cross project in 2007. It is always interesting to hear how a song’s writer hears it, especially compared to a cover with which you’re already familiar. The opener for His Faithfulness is “Won’t It Be Wonderful There,” which isn’t all that different from the MTT version, only without the Celtic effects. It’s a solid heaven song with a quick 6/8 tempo that keeps the listener’s toe tapping. “I Still Believe” reaffirms the promise of the second coming with a fast-moving traditional country track. Now is a good time to mention that I am impressed with the quality of the tracks on this recording, especially on the uptempo songs.
The other two familiar (to me) songs are covers. The standard hymn “The Love of God” is performed flawlessly alongside lovely piano accompaniment. A good comparison is Allman’s signature delivery of “Blessed Assurance” with Greater Vision. Speaking of the ol’ trio, His Faithfulness also contains a cover of Lanny Wolfe’s “Precious Blood,” which Greater Vision recorded on Take Him at His Word. This version is just a hair quicker, and has a little more power throughout. I like Greater Vision’s harmonies better than the background vocals, but actually prefer this arrangement by a bit.
The six remaining songs were all completely new to me, and establish the theme of this recording…more on that in a bit. Three of them are Allman’s own compositions. “For All He’s Done” is an outstanding inspirational number that had me singing along from the start. It bears some similarity to my all-time favorite Allman-penned song, “I Could Never Praise Him Enough”. Syrupy sweet steel guitar dominates the slow country ballad “Lay It Down,” which has a thought-provoking lyric sung directly to a struggling Christian, but might move just a little too slowly. That is definitely not the case for “Don’t You Doubt,” which was my most pleasant musical surprise. The story and application of doubting Thomas is told in pure Western Swing. It sounds like it might have come out of George Strait’s early 1980s discography. This is a hot track, and tons of fun.
“Beyond What I Can See” is a Larnelle Harris cover, and is probably my favorite performance on this project. It has a light pop flavor, which usually doesn’t bode well for me personally, but the lyric is powerful, and Allman’s delivery is fantastic. I’d love to see Chris pull this one out in the middle of a Greater Vision concert…people would eat it up. The last two songs on the project dip into the black gospel style, and both feature a Hammond B3 organ and a gospel choir backing Allman. Rodney Griffin’s “As Faithful as You” is good, but not as good as the project closer, “Jesus Never Fails”. It opens softly with Chris singing alone and gradually crescendos with the choir joining in unison to start the first chorus. Then the choir harmonies split with power in the middle of that chorus…I got the glory bumps. Another memorable musical moment is later when the accompaniment drops out, leaving Allman and his choir to belt it out.
So there is a heaven song, a second coming song, a blood song, and a song about God’s love. The remaining six illustrate the project’s central theme, which is, aptly, His Faithfulness. This recording hammers home again and again that our own strength is nothing, but that we serve the God of all strength, in whom we can put our total trust. I would not be surprised if it was recorded at a time when Allman either had just been reminded of, or needed a reminder of God’s faithfulness. And we are all better for hearing it.
If you didn’t pick up a copy of this one 13 years ago, I recommend getting the whole thing. My individual song picks would be “Jesus Never Fails,” “Beyond What I Can See,” “Don’t You Doubt,” “For All He’s Done,” and “The Love of God”. See the link below to download.
Album Rating: 4.5 stars
Available at: CD Baby
- Won’t It Be Wonderful There (Allman)
- Lay It Down (Allman)
- For All He’s Done (Allman)
- Don’t You Doubt (Allman)
- The Love of God (F.M. Lehman)
- Precious Blood (Lanny Wolfe)
- Beyond What I Can See (Larnelle Harris/Daryl Williams/Mak Kaylor)
- I Still Believe (Allman)
- As Faithful as You (Rodney Griffin)
- Jesus Never Fails (Gary Driskell)