His laconic, rough-hewn voice is one of the most effecting in country gospel music. Martin Mackenzie spoke to Ken Holloway.
Squatting in the corridor on the 17th floor of a hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, he didn't look like one of country music's greatest talents. Speaking quietly but assuredly, Ken Holloway could not conceal his implicit faith in God and his love for his Saviour. He told me that he was in town to visit bookstores to promote his latest album 'The Ordinary'. I asked him to tell me more about the title cut. "Well, my wife, Connie, and I recently had to sit down with Mandy, our 13 year old daughter, and talk about the important things in life. It made me realise that there weren't many songs, if any, about keeping yourself for your life partner from the boy's point of view. 'How far did you go last night, asked one boy/To tell you the truth, this may sound strange/But man I didn't try a thing/I love that girl so much, first I'm going to buy her a ring.' The chorus continues, 'Ain't that the kind of thing that should be ordinary?' "Hence the title of the track and the album. Ken is accompanied on the song by Lari White, who he described to me, as "a young superstar." To my ears, their voices are perfectly matched.
But how did Ken get started in the Christian music business? He virtually grew up in the smokey bars and honky tonks of his native Louisiana. Using the Southeast US as his fan base. Ken was poised to break through as a nationally known country star by his early 20s. However, "God had other plans," said Ken, recalling how his wife and mother "prayed me into the Kingdom." There's a song on his album 'He Who Made The Rain' called "I Don't Wanna Go Alone" that describes "a night 1 came in drunk and fell into bed beside my wife. Instead of yelling at me, she prayed out loud for me. No one had ever done that before. Two weeks later, I gave my heart to the Lord."
When Ken first became a Christian, he thought his music career was over but during the next couple of years people would come up to him and say, "Why don't you use what the Lord has given you?" Ken said, "I didn't think you could mix honky tonk music with the gospel, but now it seems completely natural."
Soon after accepting Christ, Ken became a licensed minister because, as he said, "I saw it as an extension of my music ministry because a lot of people who approach me after a concert don't want to just talk about my music' they want to talk about the Word."
Ken's three albums for Brentwood Music's Ransom Music were last year released in the UK so now British country fans have a chance to hear one of the most soulfully emotive voices in country gospel. "The fans love their country music, but they want it to say something different. It's tremendously rewarding and satisfying to me to be able to say 'I choose to follow this path' I choose to sing about the Lord.'"The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.