For the dedicated audiophile who still enjoys the process of poring through CD booklets and album notes, you’ve surely run across the name Gordon Mote, especially within the Nashville country music scene. Mote is Music City U.S.A.’s go-to guy when it comes to keyboards and organs and has made a name for himself as he’s lent his talents to everyone from Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, and the Gaither Vocal Band, among many, many others. But while his “day job” in the studio has kept him busy, he’s also continued working on a successful solo career, releasing a handful of records that draw from the artist’s spiritual side, showcasing his prodigious talent across the board. Gordon Mote Sings Hymns and Songs of Inspiration picks up in the vein and delivers a warm, heartfelt stroll through the hymnal while also offering up a few modern classics as well.
While some may look at what is essentially a covers album (Mote only shares songwriting credits on “Only Jesus Can Heal This Hurting World”) with disdain, Mote surprises with his take on these familiar tracks, offering up what are oftentimes pretty faithful renditions while giving things just a little bit of his own spin. But what really sets these tracks apart and lends them even more of a fresh interpretation is Mote’s vocal delivery, which is redolent with honest sincerity and which invites you to sing along.
Interestingly enough for an album comprised of mostly hymns, Mote opens up the record with “Holy Spirit,” a great modern worship track. Built on a sparse musical backdrop, Mote lets the lyrical call to worship stand on its own, his vocals rich and inviting as he sings of God’s love, grace, and freedom. He follows that up by showcasing his piano talents on a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace,” his restraint lending the track an extra level of power before he offers up an engaging take on Gateway Worship’s “O, The Blood,” infused with powerful backing vocals from the Voices of Lee.
The artist’s take on “’Tis So Sweet” is just that, a sweet and familiar rendition that recalls days long ago spent participating in a Sunday morning hymn sing while “When We All Get to Heaven” gets a country music makeover, filling it with a solid backbeat and swells of banjo, steel guitar, and plenty of Mote’s amazing keyboard work. “I Surrender All” slows things down, with Mote’s vocals drawing from some deep emotions that match his skillful piano play as the Chicago Mass Choir steps in to provide backing vocals on the soulful gospel take on “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” Mote works the B3 organ like a robed choirmaster and his zesty piano chops continue to rock through while his smooth vocals get the party rolling.
“Because He Lives (Amen)” is up next and proves to be a perfect fit for Mote’s voice, the familiar Gaither refrain matching with Mote’s travelled modern flair as “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is delivered faithfully, Mote letting the lyric do the work while passionately nailing his vocal notes. A jazzy approach colors the artist’s take on “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” flowing with an easygoing grace while “Power In the Blood” is a bonafide toe tapper that again lets Mote’s fleet fingers fly across the keyboard. Wearing his heart on his sleeve, Mote puts his all into his lone original, “Only Jesus Can Heal This Hurting World,” and his passion hammers the lyric home while there seems to be something perfectly appropriate about album closer “Just As I Am” ending the set, the favorite altar call classic given a faithful rendering here that resonates deeply even after the final note has sounded.
With this album, Gordon Mote has not set out to reinvent these songs but rather to honor them and the truths for which they stand. With subtle tweaks that enhance the songs rather than change them and an underrated vocal delivery which continues to impress, Mote offers up an album that brings these songs to life for generations old and new and shines the light ultimately on the deep truths of the Gospel.