God almost never phones in for an appointment. He rarely RSVP. He never punches in his time card. He is often late when we want Him the most. But He is always on time. He always shows us right on the spot not when we most desperately want Him but when we most humbly need Him. And when He shows up, revival happens. Karen Pack and New River on the title cut of their brand new record "Revival" chronicles such a Kodak moment. On this jaunty rootsy romp "Revival" Peck draws on her deep Southern spiritual roots as she depicts one of those open-aired Camp Revival meetings where God suddenly makes an appearance. In fact, her attention paid to details are so graphic that you can't help but feel yourself there in the 101 degree heat sitting restlessly on those folded chairs as you see the perspiration coming down the preacher's face. And suddenly the preacher's words become more than just mere rhetoric. You feel like they have become the Spirit's sword slaying our souls as our hearts are churned, our hands are lifted, and we can't help but croak along as the hallelujah songs break out spontaneously. Sung with such a passionate realism, revival has never been captured with greater perspicuity; it even trumps the best of a YouTube upload.
Karen Peck and New River comprises of singer and songwriter Karen as well as her sister Susan and tenor Jeff Hawes. Together, they have been a mainstay and an indispensable trio within Southern Gospel music. In fact, not only has Karen been voted by "Singing News Fans Award" as the number 1 favorite female vocalist for 18 consecutive years, they are also the receipts of three Grammy nominations and their catalog of hits is endless. "Revival" is the trio's much anticipated since 2011's "Reach Out." Again released under the Daywind Records imprint, this brand set of 10 songs is produced by the ubiquitous Wayne Haun. Other than the title cut, another of the album's high point is the gorgeous piano ballad "Everybody's Going Through Something." Anyone who has gone through a tough time - be it a loss of a job or the failure of one's health or the breakup of a marriage --- longs for one thing more than just the quick canned consolations. And that is a companion who would be with us through the lowest of all lows. What is most amazing about Christianity is we have that somebody in Jesus Christ; "Everybody's Going Through Something" speaks of the blessedness abiding presence of Christ that can bring warmth to a chilling heart.
Karen once again puts her honeyed soprano to great effect on the moving string- cum-piano ballad "Jesus Remembers Me." In her hushed but heartfelt plea, Karen movingly intercedes before Christ: "As you're looking down from Heaven, all the millions you must see/Oh, Jesus, remember me." Once more treading on the same thematic trajectory of suffering is the faith-impacting "I've Been Broken But I Have Been Blessed." Here Susan takes the lead as she correctly teaches us that God is never capricious or masochistic in allowing his children to go through the fiery furnace. Rather, even behind these piercing moments, stands the providence of God's gracious hand. Jeff, on the other hand, gets his chance on the microphone on the jubilant fiddle-led "Dancing Like Lazarus." With a chorus celebrating with the people in Scripture who had been the recipients of Jesus' deliverance, the joy that this song exudes is just contagious.
No Karen Peck and New River would ever be complete without songs that have to do with Cross of Jesus Christ. "You Did It Anyway" is a sober reminder that God's grace was never cheap. Rather, it was a such sacrifice on Christ's part as He made that slow and painful climb up Calvary. While "I'm Saved," though a little cheesy in various lines here and there, is a Gospel tract kind of a song on how to be saved. Ultimately, the value of listening to a record like "Revival" is that you will never experience a sonic wall erected between the trio and us. Graphic in their descriptions, searching in their emotional depths and beautiful in its melodic constructions, "Revival" really gets into our spiritual marrow and changes our DNA till we are truly like the Father.