2009 / Kyle Pederson
Review by Kathy Parsons
Renewal is a truly exceptional collection of instrumental hymns arranged and performed by Kyle Pederson on piano accompanied by oboe, cello, guitars, violin, bass, and mandolin (live musicians - not keyboards!). Most of the ten hymns are classics, but there are several that I was not familiar with. It always fascinates me when an artist can take chestnuts like “Be Thou My Vision,” “All Creatures of Our God and King,” or “For the Beauty of the Earth,” songs most people grew up with, and make them sound brand new. The melodies are intact, but the stylings and instrumentation make them sound original and contemporary without changing the spiritual quality of the songs. I was enchanted by this album the first time I listened to it, and my appreciation of it continues to grow. The gorgeous, flowing arrangements create an exquisite listening experience whether or not you are looking for hymns to listen to. The music is graceful, soothing, and warmly inviting - a real treat for the ears, soul, and spirit!
There isn’t a weak track on Renewal, but I’ll describe my favorites. “Be Thou My Vision” has been included on many of the hymn collections I’ve reviewed the past several years, but this version is different. Piano, oboe, cello, and guitar create a sublime quartet and give this hymn new life. “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” is a powerful piano solo. I’m not familiar with the hymn, but this piece reminds me of the passionate playing of the late Dax Johnson. Some passages are very dark and mysterious, but then the tone lightens and offers hope. This song is worth the price of the album by itself and is definitely my favorite track. “What Wondrous Love Is This” is also a new one for me, and the piano/cello/guitar/oboe quartet give the melody wings. “All Creatures of Our God and King” is a standard hymn, but with mandolin, piano, guitar, cello, and oboe it is imbued with fresh colors and a contemporary new style. “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is another standard, this time arranged as a piano solo. Each verse of the song is a variation on the theme - sometimes very bold, sometimes more delicate, always stirring. “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” begins as a piano solo, joined after a couple of verses by oboe and guitar, and then the strings - soothing and uplifting! “For The Beauty of the Earth” is a hymn most of us learned as children and continue to sing, often as a closing hymn. As the closing hymn on this album, the full ensemble joins in, overflowing with grace and beauty.
Renewal is breathtaking from start to finish, and I hope this is just the beginning of a long series of recordings from Kyle Pederson. It is available from Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes, and I give it my highest recommendation.
January 25, 2010