There are few artists like Guy Penrod working the market today. With his long, silver flowing mane of hair and goatee, dark cowboy boots and glittering belt buckles, Penrod seems like a character plucked from the Old West rather than one of the most loved and successful lead vocalists in southern gospel music. But Penrod has been just that, helming that position for the Gaither Vocal Band from 1994 to 2009 before embarking on a solo career that’s seen him release two well received records.
Penrod is back this time with the aptly titled Worship, a collection of thirteen praise and worship covers that range from classic tracks like the hymn “Victory In Jesus” and the Andrae Crouch standard “Through It All” to more modern fare like “Revelation Song” and Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons.” The artist is joined by a steady stable of studio musicians with seasoned veterans like Scott Williamson and Chris Rodriguez among them while the overall production is helmed by Lindell Cooley, who infuses each of these tracks with plenty of country flair to make Penrod feel comfortable each and every time.
By and large, Penrod does seem comfortable in the worship leader’s chair as he ranges through tracks like “You Never Let Go” and the Darrell Evans classic, “Trading My Sorrows” as Aubrey Haynie’s fiddle fills run throughout. The same can be said for tried and true songs like “Take My Life” and Lenny LeBlanc’s “You Reign,” the artist at home in the lyric and the arrangements solid.
Yet, even with that country accessibility and familiar lyrics, many of those songs fall flat. The sound great, sure, but perhaps it’s the simple familiarity and middle of the road musical delivery that takes away from what are clearly well-intentioned attempts. Thankfully though, Penrod steps back up to the plate and manages to make a few of these songs his own.
Interestingly enough, it’s the slower tracks that really work for the artist as he shows on “Revelation Song,” his passionate vocals emotionally charged as swells of fiddle and acoustic guitar press things forward, opening up into a showcase for his stellar vocal range. “I Need You More” allows him the chance to shine with a subtler arrangement as does “When Love Was Slain” while listeners will be drawn in by more powerful vocals on “10,000 Reasons” and his energetic take on “Victory in Jesus,” hearkening back to his GVB days. And with album closer “I Will Be With You,” Penrod fuses together an old school vibe with his strong voice, singing these lyrics with conviction, building to an impressive crescendo that leaves listeners cheering for more.
However, that’s a cry that is only half-answered on this collection, as Worship delivers thirteen sound tracks but only manages to really connect with about half of them. Granted, Penrod’s developed a following that will no doubt eat these up but there will be some who will come away wanting and expecting more from the artist. Worship isn’t bad but it doesn’t quite strike great either.