Before you can understand where country music is going, you first have to know where it’s been. And since the very beginning of the genre, country music has been calling on the roots of Gospel music for much of its structure and inspiration. There was a time in country music when learning all the old Gospel standards was a rite of passage. Hank Williams had his own Gospel persona called Luke The Drifter. Johnny Cash had a sworn affirmation to record Gospel songs as a specific percentage of his recorded output.
Of course, honoring Gospel roots is not really a requirement anymore, but it is for the Georgia-born Brent Cobb. One of the first songs he ever performed was a Hank Williams composition in Sunday school. It was “Tear in My Beer,” so not exactly Gospel, but Brent was close. And feeling like his career—and his life—wouldn’t be complete without showing respects and recording that Southern Gospel album he’d always threatened to, he’s finally hauled off and did it, with a little bit of real life inspiration.
Cobb was in his hometown, going through a 4-way stop he’d gone through thousands of times before when someone on the cross street blew through the stop sign, T-boning Brent with his 1-year-old son Tuck in the back seat. The truck was sent on its side, and rolled off into a ditch. Brent broke his collarbone, but otherwise was okay. Tuck was untouched. It helped put life into perspective, and Cobb couldn’t put off making that Gospel album any longer.
Called And Now, Let’s Turn To Page… for a time and place where hymnals were how you followed along as opposed to the big screens of many modern churches today, it’s an inspired recitation of eight Southern Gospel standards, along with a Brent Cobb original co-written with his wife on a back porch called “When It’s My Time,” which maybe Cobb hope gets entered into the canon of Gospel canticles right beside the others. It was all produced by cousin Dave Cobb.
And Now, Let’s Turn To Page… is a Gospel album, but it’s also a Brent Cobb album. This was evident from the very beginning when we heard the first single from the album, “We Shall Rise.” Wild, loud, rambunctious, with lively instrumentation, it was full of the Holy Spirit for sure, guaranteed to bring the faithful to their feet. It hinted that maybe this particular take on Gospel music would be a little less tired and behaved than others. Another song “Are You Washed in the Blood?” brings Brent’s upbeat, signature funky country style to a 150-year-old composition, revitalizing its otherwise timeless verses.
But overall, And Now, Let’s Turn To Page… takes a much more reverent and understated approach to songs that have been foundational to country music and Gospel for generations. “Are You Washed in the Blood?” was recorded by Johnny Cash, Alan Jackson, and by Ernest V. “Pop” Stoneman at the very first “Bristol Sessions” in 1927 where country music as a commercial enterprise began.
“The Old Rugged Cross” has been recorded by just about everyone in country, including George Jones, Eddy Arnold, Chet Atkins, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, June Carter, Ray Price, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash of course, and even more contemporary stars such as Ricky Van Shelton, Brad Paisley, and so on. This is how elemental this music really is, even if many of the entertainers if this generation have lost touch with this truth.
But Brent Cobb hasn’t. And Now, Let’s Turn To Page… may not be the turbo-charged funkadelic pew rocker we maybe were expecting after first hearing “We Shall Rise,” but it’s the record Brent Cobb wanted to make, with sincere passion for each composition captured with grace, bringing these critically-foundational songs of Gospel—and country—back to the forefront where they belong.
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