Tony Cummings went to Bridgnorth Baptist to meet up with three worshipping veterans THE HUDSON TAYLORS
"This Is Holy Ground" reads the banner on the wall of Bridgnorth Baptist. And indeed it is - though if you associate holiness with hushed reverence and suppressed emotions you'd be stunned by the waves of joyful worship and occasional explosions of laughter that emanate from the packed throng here for a rare Hudson Taylors concert.
Many things strike one about a Hudson Taylors audience. One is the huge age range. Wrinklies and perms sit next to excited school kids while teenagers - maybe drawn here by the new cool Americana/roots music played so expertly by the Hudson Taylors - sat next to church deacons. The HT set is everything you'd expect it to be, expertly picked and expressively sung exhortations to praise and worship the living God. Wayne sings "Every moment I will praise you", in a deft piece of country praise aided by Brian Houston's cascades of electric guitar. Then Houston intones "Let's go down to the river to praise" and the whole audience/congregation sings the refrain, "I am safe, I am safe, I am safe in the arms of the Lord." Then it's Noel Richards' turn to sing lead as he reminds us that "This is the day the Lord has made."
The songs of devotion and joy continue. Houston proclaims that "we are called to be prophets to the nations" and at the end of their mellow, warm hearted set that's just what the Hudson Taylors demonstrate, bringing individual words from the Throne Room to members of the congregation. At the end the audience seems reluctant to depart. A seething throng gather around the table to purchase the Hudson Taylors' only album, 2002's 'Hurricane' and the latest from the individual HTs, 'All Heaven Declares: The Very Best Of Noel Richards', 'Treasure: The Definitive Wayne Drain Collection' and Brian Houston's 'Gospel Road'. Even in this atmosphere of CCM commerce, the three veteran musicianaries still take time out to pray for people pressing in on all sides.
Earlier in the day, I sit around a table with Noel, Wayne and Brian. I begin by suggesting to Brian that it probably doesn't make a great deal of economic sense to bring together again a Travelling Wilburys-style roots/acoustic worship trio from England (though Noel has subsequently relocated to Spain), the USA and Northern Ireland. Admits Brian, "We would get three times as much doing solo stuff; we effectively divide our money in three by working together, that's the truth. But that's okay, because we think it's a good thing to do, and we enjoy being with each other. There's a rumour that we might actually like each other."
Noel: I said I would put some feelers out and see if we can get some venues, so I had people agreeing to host the Hudson Taylors again. Then Brian wrote and said, actually, I think I might be going to Chicago for a year, so maybe we could talk about this. We thought, well maybe we could do a reunion tour in 2011 which is exactly 10 years after the first time the Hudson Taylors got together. Then Chicago didn't happen, so we were back on to do this tour. I wrote to everybody and said to them, actually, we're not doing it now, then I wrote to them all again and said, no actually we are doing it. So here we are.
Brian: This tour was sponsored by Hokey Cokey tours.
Noel: Yeah, on, off, on, off. We've basically just reissued the 'Hurricane' album, because we are still really proud of that and the songs still work well.
Tony: May I suggest it's partly the internet you've got to thank for the continuing interest in the Hudson Taylors? Presumably you get a lot of people searching for information about a Chinese missionary finding their way to you.
Brian: He took his name from us. We thought we should maybe sue him or something but God spoke to us and said be merciful, let the guy off the hook. I think, because I didn't really have a religious upbringing, therefore I never encountered this name Hudson Taylor. When I did hear it I thought that's a great name for a band because it sounded like the River Hudson and Taylors. That's why I chose the spelling and made it like that, and when we needed a band name I said "guys why don't we use Hudson Taylor's" and we did.
Tony: You've got different musical roots. I understand Noel that at the beginning you didn't even like country music at all, did you?
Noel: Well no, but I am slowly being converted.
Brian: It was for an hour today, in the end he was singing along.
Noel: When we did the 'Hurricane' album it was at a studio in Nashville. Just before we went into the studio I said, "Well, I bought Emmylou Harris' 'Wrecking Ball' and hated it." That didn't go down well. But now I love doing this music live. The songs touch people and people respond and you think. This is a whole genre that really does work.
Brian: Country is essentially live music, it's music that's being kept alive by the community. I don't think people hear it enough, this country music.