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Amazing Grace Praise Band: Glorious Triumph
Sound/Style: fervent gospel/R&B blend utilizing sacred steel guitar
By Steve Morley
(UMCom) -- The use of steel guitar in worship has been an earmark of the Pentecostal church for decades, making it a sound ripe for further discovery. Steel guitarist Robert Randolph recently took the lead in bringing the soaring sound of sacred steel to the outside world, but conversely, the Amazing Grace Praise Band’s Glorious Triumph ushers listeners into the realm where the sacred steel thrives as a tool set apart for sanctuary worship. The record, intended to document the musical tradition of the band’s Jewell Dominion Church home, is a multi-generational affair centered around steel guitarist/producer Del Ray Grace and his son, Del Junior. Significantly though, the focus here isn’t on any single person. The honor afforded to the expressive instrument (thought by some to be specially anointed) is meant to glorify God rather than the gifts of any particular instrumentalist – a distinction that can be blurred when the tabletop-styled guitar is used in secular rock-styled settings. The band’s spiritual emphasis is accomplished in part by featuring a rotating trio of equally passionate steel players as well as a judicious use of volume in which steel-produced melodies and solo lines don’t often dominate. In fact, on numbers like "Jay’s Jam" and "Victory Praise," the itchy and insistent rhythm guitar parts nearly mask the steel, diffusing the notion that there are any "star" players in this outfit. If your idea of a holy sound, though, is one of subdued reverence, you’d better hold on to your proverbial pew.
The bulk of the disc is comprised of high-stepping instrumentals that combine rhythm and blues roots with irrepressible gospel-styled fervor. This approach squeezes sparks from both band originals and older standbys like "Sing Till The Power" and "Day Of Rejoicing," leaving only a remake of "Amazing Grace" fighting to lock into a rhythmic pocket. Their take on "Give Thanks" rides on a pulsing, Motown-styled bass and is augmented by unorthodox (and I don’t mean Roman) jazz chord changes. The players here are all skilled, though like many Pentecostal praise bands, they play at least as much from felt instinct as from acquired knowledge, resulting in the occasional moment of inspired dissonance.
The use of spoken segments and overlaid crowd noise goes a long way towards creating the atmosphere of an actual service. Though the packed-church effect is artificial, it effectively prompts a sense of participation for the listener. The recitation-heavy "Last Supper" takes the technique to extremes, but the track would be suitable for a house-rocking home communion if the occasion was ever called for. Besides containing a surplus of energetic and devotional offerings, Glorious Triumph provides a stepping-off point for a divergent spiritual experience – an all-too-rare occurrence in the highly segmented Christian church. If you have a heart for Christian unity, take the time to hear and share one of the many different ways the one true God can be worshipped.
Steve Morley is a freelance music journalist living in College Grove, Tenn.
This review was developed by UMC.org, the official online ministry of the United Methodist Church.