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Steven Curtis Chapman: “Deep Roots”

In the last five years, contemporary Christian artist Steven Curtis Chapman has been on a journey that would test the strength of anyone. Through the prism of his last two albums, he has publicly dealt with the loss of his youngest daughter, Maria Sue, finding a way to celebrate her life with his music in the face of a tragic situation. Beauty Will Rise, released in 2009, was dedicated to her memory. Both that album and 2011’s re-Creation presented strong personal songwriting with modern arrangements. The latter found him writing much of his new material on the ukulele.     

With the release of his new album Deep Roots on March 11, Steven digs into his rural Kentucky background. It is being released exclusively by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.  His interpretations of many well-known hymns and gospel hits, mixing subtle bluegrass textures with three generations of Chapman singers, will be a pleasure to anyone looking for a study in the old-school, gospel tradition.

Classic hymns such as “'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Blessed Assurance” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” are given a tasteful, acoustic treatment. Steven’s father, Herbert Chapman Sr., is introduced on the lively jam “Life Is Like a Mountain Railway.” The family back-porch atmosphere envelops these recordings, with banjos, fiddles and mandolins cementing the feel. The mandolin work of the great Ricky Skaggs, as well as the instrumental work of many top Nashville players, elevates the music, fluttering within the spaces between Steven’s solid guitar playing and singing.

“Be Still and Know” is much more contemporary here with some glorious harmonies and chord choices. Steven stands tall with his single-vocal performance of “Rock of Ages.” “He Touched Me,” made famous by Elvis Presley, is enhanced by the group vocals and the softness of the band. Within the confines of his stylistic choice, he also revisits some of his older material. Fans will enjoy new versions of “Hiding Place,” “His Eyes” and “My Redeemer Is Faithful and True.” The album closes with a different spin on the story of “Cinderella” that cleverly paints a picture of the narrator getting his own chance to dance with the fairy-tale character. For the gospel and contemporary Christian fan, this album will be uplifting and a welcome addition to the catalog of a prolific artist.  

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