The current music market is seeing the success of a cappella music on the rise once again, with artists like Pentatonix and the NBC singing competition, “The Sing-Off,” showcasing great vocal talents from across the country. Yet, for The Martins, the sibling collective of Judy Martin Hess, Jonathan Martin, and Joyce Martin Sanders, a cappella music has been a way of life and has been a key niche within their performing life over the years. And while it’s been nearly eighteen years since their first a cappella project, the group, fresh off a renewed kick to their career, recently stepped back into the studio for round two.
The result of that time is the succinctly titled A Cappella, and delivers exactly what it promises. The trio tackles ten tracks from all across the board, from classic hymns like “Fairest Lord Jesus” and “Praise to the Lord” to more surprising fare like “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “The Prayer.” Their voices are powerful and the harmonies stunning as always, leaving listeners longing for just a bit more.
Some of that success is due to producer Michael English, whom the group credits with much of the sound found here on the record, despite the fact that it was his first time producing an a cappella record as well.
“He was a little nervous,” shares Joyce, “And he was growing at the same time we were growing. He has been a part of our career for so many years. We would not be The Martins we are today were it not for Michael.”
Longtime producer Lari Goss also shares in the work and his arrangements are key here, helping to frame the trio’s voices in some compelling ways. Among his contributions here were aiding the group in turning the crossover classic “The Prayer,” usually conceived of as a duet, into something befitting a trio and it works wonderfully well, making full use of these three talented voices. Add in some co-producer nods to David Phelps and Matthew Holt and these arrangements are in good hands.
But the power of an a cappella recording, as Jonathan puts it, is that “to perform it live you have to be on your ‘A’ game” and The Martins bring that through each of these ten tracks.
Things start out right in the group’s wheelhouse with the hymn, “He’s Everything to Me,” almost serving as a warm up for the rest of the record as the arrangement starts soft and slow and builds, letting the trio of voices rise through the roof in perfect harmony. “When I Go Away” follows hard after and brings some rich Gospel flair, allowing for each voice to shine brightly on the smooth jam while “Fairest Lord Jesus” showcases a goosebump-inducing performance.
“Praise to the Lord” is another straightforward arrangement, letting the vocals hold sway while “Shut De Do/Three Little Birds” lets the threesome let their hair down, having fun with the Caribbean flavored composition as “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” recalls a high church setting. A beautiful medley of hymns follows hard after, the voices in unison faithfully delivering “Come, Thou Fount Of Every Blessing/Fill My Cup, Lord/Spirit Of The Living God.”
That reworked version of “The Prayer” is up next and it’s a clear highlight, the Martin siblings shining throughout the Lari Goss arrangement, building to a powerful crescendo that makes use of the talents of all three. “If We Ever Needed the Lord Before We Sure Do Need Him Now” comes along after and is a perfect foil, the arrangement bright and shining with it’s vocal histrionics and solid southern gospel vibes before closing things out with a stunning version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
With A Cappella, The Martins step forward and continue to do what they’ve been doing for years, bringing their three voices together in perfect harmony. And whether they’re lending their talents to a classic hymn or a crossover pop jam, you can be sure that this trio will deliver each and every time.