Country or Gospel? That is the question of the day. More and more country artist these days are reaching into their bag of tricks and pulling out a gospel album. Alan Jackson recently added his name to that list and put out his own gospel album entitled “Precious Memories” which has several old classics ranging from “Old Rugged Cross” to “I’ll Fly Away”. It also includes the most popular gospel remake in past history, “How Great Thou Art”.
This is one truly inspirational album. Alan out did himself on this one, as he did all the songs justice. This is one good example that a down to earth country artist can have heart and soul as well. Randy Travis also comes to mind as he has a few gospel albums that he has released as well.
Randy’s current album “Glory Train (Songs of Faith, Worship, and Praise)” has songs like “Down By The Riverside” and “Precious Memories”. Randy is currently travelling around the country doing several small church shows close to the people in an acoustical setting performing all his gospel hits. During his show he sings a few of his mainstream songs that have made him the country music icon he has come to be, but he does not stray away from the concept of the show.
Josh Turner released a song on the country charts from his debut album called “Long Black Train”, which had a strong religious message. Though the album wasn’t a gospel album, it carried a strong religious statement throughout. He has many gospel songs imbedded in his work as well. Other artists that have placed songs in their albums of a religious nature are Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton with “When I Get Where I Am Going” and Wynonna Judd recent cover of the huge hit “I Can Only Imagine”.
Even more country artists make the cross-over list to gospel including: David Ball singing “Wrestle with the Devil” and Kris Kristofferson with “I Believe”. Even Johnny Cash broke into the gospel scene in 2003 with “Engine-One-Fourty-Three”. Older country artist like Ricky Skaggs who has done a bluegrass style gospel albums over the years and Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, who do down home country gospel, round out the list of gospel vocalists.
If you’re not a religious person, but a country music fan, you should give these artists a listen. You may find you enjoy or at least appreciate what they are trying to do musically. There are surely one or two songs out of the old classics or even some of the newly written material that will at the very least turn your ear.
Out of all the genres of music out there, country music seems to be on the upward spiral to making great gospel albums which in turn has impacted the quality of music they produce after the fact. I do not think they are going to corner the market in the gospel area by no means, but there will always be room for theirs version of the great classics we have all come to know.
As the years have come to show us there is a little faith in everyone, even country artists. As they rise in their genre of music and branch out and spread their wings, I’m sure we will have several more country artists sliding over and taking a different path now. So far, past experience has come to show us that’s not always a bad thing.