Wasn't it Francis Schaeffer who once said the greatest atrocity a church could ever commit is to assume the Gospel? Once we start to assume that everybody knows about the atoning work of Chris,t we'll stop talking about it. Very soon after we'll be only one step remove from denying it. The Williamsons not only never assume the Gospel but it is at the center of their latest album "Saved." Like a multi-faceted beauty of a sparkling diamond, each of these 10 cuts sparkle effervescently illuminating different aspects of Christ's redeeming work on the Cross. Originally known as the Homesteaders Quartet, they have been releasing Southern Gospel music since 1998. The Williamsons are comprised of husband and wife Donnie and Lisa Williamson, tenor David Folenius, and bass Darin Hebert. Since Lisa Williamson is known as a tour de force writer who has written classics for the Hinsons, the New Plainsmen and the Carolina Boys, she gets to write four of the ten cuts here. With the exception of "I'm Saved," the rest of them are covers, many of them are classics from the Paynes, the Happy Goodman Family, the Hinsons, Tanya Goodman Skyes and others.
Frankly, the best songs are the ones penned by Lisa Williamson. Kicking off with a bang is "Blood Stained Banner." This song about Christ's victory over Satan via his sacrifice, displays all the strengths of this quartet, from its shuffling swinging country blues melody to the tickling piano and the blazing harmonica and singing fiddles. What really sets Lisa Williamson's song writing apart is her boldness to take significant left turns. Breaking out of the traditional four-part harmony, the most progressive song here is "What I Could Have Been." This gorgeous ballad which rejoices in how Christ saves us from sin's destructive effects features some delightful percussion loops. Lovers of traditional country will be swooned by "Pourin' It On." This is a nice country waltz accompanied by some glorious harmony work. "Hosanna" again finds Lisa Williamson taking yet another uncharted excursion into the epic anthemic terrain. Sounding more like a choral cantata, the story of Jesus' Via Dolorosa really comes alive here with the song's engaging narrative plot line.
Written by Randy Mobley, "I'm Saved" is a spirited praise number with lyrics deeply rooted in the work of Jesus Christ. Traditionalist will adore Rusty Goodman's "Look for Me." One of the few songs about heaven and eternal security made even more celestial with its soaring string arrangements. The Williamsons go into Carman territory with the story song "The Conversation." "The Conversation" is one slow-teased out bluesy song that unveils the redemption story as Christ's victory over Satan. It features how the various quartet members would sing the various parts of this song before coming together for a crescendo ending culminating in Christ's victory which is nothing short of brilliant. However, not everything works: the Williamsons don't add much to classics such as "The Lights of Home" and "The Upward Way."
Saved is a thematically coherent album that brilliantly explores the Gospel of Jesus Christ through various prismatic but keening angles. As a whole, this record really tells the story of Jesus and his love with the highlight being Lisa Williamson's work. The Gospel needs to be articulated, sung about, lived out and most of all, enjoyed. And there's lots of all the above here in the Williamsons' Saved.