Many people may mistake my cynicism regarding, what I perceive as, heavy handed God centric songs in country music as not having appreciation for religious songs as a rule. This, in fact, is not accurate. While I cringe at certain religiously themed songs that feel too forced or contrived, I will admit here that I am easily taken in by religious songs. In fact, Randy Travis’ Worship And Faith is one of my favorite albums from his expansive discography. Likewise, I can’t get enough of Iris Dement’s Lifeline. While I, of course, always recommend those albums to all who haven’t heard it yet, there is somebody else that I urge you to check out if you don’t mind some “ old time religion in your heart.”
I don’t listen to his more contemporary music, but one of my favorite religious albums is Fernando Ortega’s Hymns and Worship. Ortega’s easy tenor and sincere interpretation of oft sung songs is calming and good for my soul. I like the whole thing, but there are three songs in particular that I can offer to Country Universe readers, since they happen to be sonically rooted in country music.
“Children of the Living God”
This is one of the more up-tempo songs on the album. It prominently features Alison Krauss, along with unmistakable country instrumentation.
“How Firm A Foundation”
I’ve always liked this song. The melody is a bit different than what I’m used to, but I like it better. The production is very organic with a bit of a Celtic flavor.
“Give Me Jesus”
When I heard Vince Gill sing this on the telecast of a Grand Ole Opry special, he explained that he learned this song through Fernando Ortega. It’s a simple song with minimal lyrics that touched me uncharacteristically deeply. while I’m partial to Vince’s version, Ortega’s is likely equally good. Not surprisingly, Vince’s performance and back-story is how I stumbled upon this album in the first place. Vince’s lovely recording is simply accompanied by a piano. While Ortega is actually a pianist, his version is tastefully mixed with guitar, piano and violin.
What religious album do you recommend?