When most think of David Phelps, they think immediately of his amazing voice. His stunning multiple-octave range and powerful delivery have led to tons of album sales and a near guarantee of a standing ovation when he comes to the stage. And while those vocals delight, what often gets lost in the mix is Phelps’ stellar understanding of the music itself and his unique ear for drawing in diverse genres and sounds. On his latest effort, Freedom, the artist manages to highlight both of those key elements, resulting in a stirring listen.
Throughout the record, Phelps’ mines a host of styles, working with obvious elements of classical/choral on tracks like “Holy (Sanctus),” his arrangement multifaceted and layered with vocal praise, and southern gospel on songs like “When the Saints Go Marching In” and the awesome, slow burner cover of “Ain’t No Grave.” Yet when the record turns to things like out and out western on “Ghost Town (Freedom), the intro recalling the great spaghetti western themes of yesteryear, modern country on “Little White Church” as Phelps delivers what feels like a Little Big Town B-side, and radio ready vocal pop on “Who Do You Say That I Am,” listeners are treated to a wonderful musical journey.
For some, that musical schizophrenia may feel like a bumpy road but for those flexible enough to appreciate the artist’s diversity, it’s a fun ride. And holding it all together are his amazing vocals and lyrics that reflect an honest life of faith, constantly bringing praise to the Father.
That glue is perhaps no more evident than on the cover of the classic tune, “We Shall Behold Him,” where Phelps puts the whole package together. Crooning his way through the familiar lyric, the artist works his way up through a slowly building composition, his vocals smooth and pitch perfect throughout as rich swells of strings and piano lead the way before rising to a powerful crescendo to the delight of listeners far and wide. “I’m Coming Home” takes a different approach, mining a dramatic approach with layered vocals and a lyric reminiscent of the “prodigal son” story while “What I Need Is You” is an honest prayer and reflection, concluding, “I don’t need a voice of thunder/For me to believe it’s true/I don’t need a sign or wonder/Jesus, what I need is You.”
Celtic themes inform the playful “Parable of the River,” bright horns providing bold tones across the choral-flavored landscape and “Your Time Will Come” carries that same choral theme alongside an almost patriotic feeling arrangement which Phelps delivers with passion and power. “The Lily,” anchored by a warm, poignant piano lead provides a moment of quiet and reflection, Phelps’ lyrics rich with poetic prose while “Heaven’s Shore” showcases more of the artist’s talent for arranging, offering up a moving treatise that looks to Heaven.
With Freedom, David Phelps simply continues to establish himself as one of the most talented acts around. Gifted with an amazing voice and an ear for dynamic, creative arrangements, the artist weaves tales of faith and hope throughout songs that jump genres and styles left and right, resulting in a fun filled romp through this musical landscape.