Anthony Facello, Dustin Doyle and Kellan Monroe have survived beyond the ashes. 2012 was indeed a trying year for this Southern Gospel trio. They had been through the incendiary furnace akin to what the friends of Daniel in the Bible went through. Lead singer Casey Rivers handed in his resignation letter last year. It is one thing for a band to lose a member but when its lead singer leaves the basic identifiable sound of the trio gets redefined. Furthermore, Beyond the Ashes went through a label change. Initially signed to Vine Records,"Living in the Moment" is their debut record for Wayne Haun and Ernie Haase's Stow Town Records. Nevertheless, God never allows his children to be exhumed by the flames of trials. In latter part of last year, Beyond the Ashes announced that Dustin Doyle has been added to the ensemble where he takes the lead vocals on five out of the eleven cuts here. Doyle, the son of a preacher, has a soothing tenor that blends seamlessly with his other band mates. But more importantly, there is a Godly introspective grit ingrained in Doyle's voice that when he croons a ballad you feel ministered to by the Spirit of God.
In keeping with the trio's tenor, "Living in the Moment" again stretches the boundaries of Southern Gospel music. These guys do not just sing our grandfather's hymnal verbatim. Rather, imagination, creativity and ingenuity shade the album here. Who would have imagined the names Jason Mraz and Rick Nowels would appear in the song writers' credits on a Southern Gospel album? Mraz is the artist to hold the song that spent the most weeks (76) on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his five-times platinum hit "I'm Yours." While Rick Nowels has been writing rock-pop songs since the Gothic ages for legends such as Stevie Nicks, Belinda Carlisle, Madonna and Dido. Here Beyond the Ashes has defied all expectations by recording Mraz and Nowels' "Living in the Moment." Doyle who sings lead vocals here adopts Mraz's sanguine demeanor quipped with even some wistful whistling most appropriate for this paean about the need to forget about our past and live in gratitude for the present. The boys again turn the tables around when they mustered enough courage to tackle Collingsworth Family's classic "Oh, the Thought that Jesus Loves Me." Using the children's song "Jesus Loves Me" as the song's template, "Oh, the Thought that Loves Me" is a simple yet affective song.
Unlike many Southern Gospel releases which are too much stymied with slow hymn-like ballads here bouncy danceable tunes abound. Featuring some metered out percussion beats and some jazzy piano tingling, "Your Love Comes Shinning Through" has that waltz like feel that makes you want to swing your feet as Doyle sings so melodiously about the love of God. Those who cannot get enough of the Jason Mraz lightweighted jazzy pop rattle will indulge in "Where the Gold Begins" (which features baritone Kellan Monroe on lead vocals). Not all is lost where classic southern gospel music is concerned. Traditionalists who like their song majestically imbued with strings and the three-part ensemble sound will enjoy "Peace in the Mist of the Storm." However, far too old fashioned is the heaven-centered "Over for Good" which features some archaic churchy organ riffs.
Yet, the album's most tender moments are with the ballads. Ernie Hasse and Joel Lindsey have crafted a gem here with "When Love Whispers Your Name." With its beautiful worded message about Jesus'presence in our times of fear, this is one of those songs that truly warms the heart. While "So Amazing to Me" has an early 90s praise and worship feel that re-orients us to focus on God rather than ourselves. "Living in the Moment" is not just a record for the moment; there are songs here that ministers so powerfully that you will find yourself coming back to this disc again and again.