Matthew Smith: Quiet Hymns

The Indelible Grace collective has been cranking out terrific new tunes for old hymns for almost 20 years with the help of contributors from Dan Haseltine to Sandra McCracken, but one of the consistent MVPs of Kevin Twit’s club has been Matthew Smith, whose warm baritone powered luminous re-imaginings of worship songs like “Jesus I Come (Out of My Bondage) and “Father Long Before Creation.” Along the way his own albums in the same vein have provided plenty of opportunities to renovate their music without sacrificing the thoughtful, pastoral lyrics that have long served the church well. Smith’s recent Quiet Hymns project is no exception. Its title should not be read as “boring old songs.” Rather, this collection offers acoustic-based arrangements seasoned with studio effects and electric flourishes by his producer, longtime Andrew Peterson collaborator Cason Cooley. Some tracks (“How Firm a Foundation” in 12/8 time, “I Need Thee Every Hour” in 4/4, “Be Still My Soul,” and more) show how to spruce up an old melody with a fresh orchestration and rhythm section. Others (including “Thy Love to Me” and “God Himself”) bring new melodies and novel refrains to the original strophic (verse-only) texts. Smith’s text choices show a special sympathy and affinity for the hurting and downtrodden, preparing us for hope in our suffering and even demise. Special mention goes to the late 19th century hymn “Here Is Love (Vast as the Ocean)” which sounds as fresh today as it did back then.

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