Hymns & Harmony

Hymns and Hamony - Album Art01 It is no Secret
02 My Jesus I Love thee
03 He Touched Me
04 Keep me everyday
05 I shall know Him
06 Jesus keep me near the Cross
07 My Faith is Strong
08 Sheltered in the arms of God
09 Remind me dear Lord
10 There is a River
11 I long for the day
12 Will the circle be unbroken

Digital Version (Zipped MP3 Album) £7.00

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Reveiw by Paul Davis

What a gem! If ever devotional repertoire received from generations-past conjured up the well-beloved nostalgia of ‘tried-and-tested’ chapel-life, it is that of the celebrated evangelical hymnal. Nowadays, as this great hymnal set from the Harcus Family illustrates – the material is far from dead-and-buried.

This easy-on-the-ear Scots’ country-offering is a wonderful and sensitive collection of hymns drawn from the last couple of centuries plus the more recent Southern Gospel store. Many of these songs were born out of the traumatic experiences but, this is an optimistic and hope-filled mix drenched in the folk-musical modernity of the Orkney Islands.

Passion is hot and high, engaging and inspirational.

Review by Tom Lennie

The north isle of Westray is the spiritual jewel among Orkney’s 17 inhabited islands; its evangelical heritage dating back to the turn of the 19th century. Over 200 years later 30-something Harcus is one living evidence of that ongoing heritage.

Both his parents were involved in gospel groups and Michael’s musical tones have been familiar to Scottish gospel music lovers for many years.

Indeed ‘Hymns & Harmony’ is his sixth album recording since his debut in 1998. It differs from most of the others in that – bar one – these are not his own compositions. Instead, as its title suggests, this disc expresses the islander’s lifelong love of tried and tested gospel songs that are rich in melody, harmony and lyrical content.

Thankfully, it’s no mere regurgitation of grossly over-recorded tunes (though, despite its strong performance, I do question the need for another version of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”).

These arrangements – care of Mike along with wife, Christine, and various Orkney, Shetland and mainland colleagues – come over with real musical aptitude and freshness of sound, and an uncanny depth of spirituality.

Side-by-side, we’re treated to two choice Fanny Crosby hymns, picked from that writer’s most remarkable repertoire. With most tunes, however, we’re talking about age in terms of decades rather than centuries (eg, one was penned by Dennis Jernigan, another by Bill Gaither), and in the case of “My Faith Is Strong”, it’s a totally new composition written by Christine and sung by Mairi, which sits neatly alongside these others. Indeed a further newie or two might have added to the set.

“There Is A River” gains considerably from its tender, deliberate piano-based treatment, and while I know a couple of Celtic interpretations of “My Jesus I Love Thee”, this version is easily the best – these guys’ take of it being simply sublime.

Indeed, harmonies on all tracks are quite delectable and help to make this album. “Sheltered In The Arms Of God” is another real gem, and shows off Michael’s vocals at their purest.

It’s clear that this amiable Orcadian is totally at home with this melee of country and bluegrass and it’s equally clear to the present reviewer that it’s with this format also that not only does he sound his personal best, but stands out as one of the very finest of British country/Americana-flavoured acts.

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