The husband and wife duo KEITH & KRISTYN GETTY, now based in Nashville, talk us through the songs on their critically acclaimed album

Keith & Kristyn Getty
Keith & Kristyn Getty

Cross Rhythms was not alone in naming Keith & Kristyn Getty's 'Hymns For The Christian Life' one of the outstanding albums of 2012. The concept of bringing a bluegrass element to the musically haunting and theologically rich songs of the Gettys was magnificently executed by top producers Charlie Peacock (The Civil Wars, Switchfoot) and Ed Cash (Chris Tomlin, David Crowder Band) while the hand-picked special guests including country star Ricky Skaggs and Clannad's Moya Brennan added further dynamics to a rich fusion of musical elements. Here Keith runs through the songs on the groundbreaking greengrass album.

"Christ Is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed"
This song began over conversations about faith and doubt and in particular the current discussions around belief in God and atheism. Talking with Kristyn's uncle, Professor John Lennox, we considered the story of Thomas where doubt turns into faith. It inspired a song to relive that story inside the context of one of the oldest and most universal greetings in Christendom - "Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!" We co-wrote the song with our new friend, Ed Cash, and premiered it at our own church on an Easter Sunday. We often use it to begin both concerts and services as we meet together to celebrate the historical fact that our Lord is risen. On this we build our faith for life.

"Oh, How Good It Is"
Inspired by Psalm 133 (and Skype chats with my sister, Elaine!) this is a celebration of Christian community. Day to day our faith is not just expressed individually but must be lived out in the community of all those who trust in Christ. This is of course both wonderful and very difficult at the same time! Over the past two years we have in fresh ways known the benefits and challenges of community in our new home in Nashville.

"A Mother's Prayer"
Featuring Moya Brennan
This melody was written with our good friend, Fionan de Barra. Kristyn used it to write a prayer for our daughter, Eliza. With the arrival of a child everything in life is turned upside down, and we understand helplessness in a way we never could have before! This song is a prayer for any parent or guardian as they watch their child grow and learn faith for themselves. The first person to record one of Kristyn's songs was the great Irish singer, Moya Brennan. We are so honoured to have her sing on this track, and in it she includes an old lullaby in the Gaelic language.

"Simple Living (A Rich Young Man)"
Featuring Ricky Skaggs
"Simple Living" is specifically on the theme of money but has a wider application to all our resources, all the things of which the Lord has made us a steward. It was Stuart Townend's suggestion that we simply tell the story of the rich young man. Because of the distinctly bluegrass feel of this arrangement, we took the opportunity to ask the legend, Ricky Skaggs, to join us on this piece. Since we moved to Nashville two years ago he has been a voice of constant encouragement to us, and it was an honour to have him sing and play on this song.

"Before You I Kneel (A Worker's Prayer)"
This is a hymn for the working day, a prayer for each task we are given. The spark for the song came from our good friend, Jeff Barneson, who introduced us to a special service called The Holy Ordination To Daily Work that Intervarsity conducts annually at Harvard University. As Keith and one of our new Nashville friends, Jeff Taylor, put the melody together, they reflected on JS Bach who finished his working day of writing for the Church by inscribing SDG (Soli Deo Gloria) at the bottom of the manuscript page. It became the hook that we built both the song and this particular arrangement on where we hear Bach's timeless melody, "Wachet Auf", played on folk instruments.

"The Village Reel"
The Village Reel is one of the many instrumental pieces we've written over the last couple of years. It captures some of the energy and musical fusion of Irish and bluegrass musicians writing and playing together; bringing a sort of "greengrass" result! We titled it after the area we live in, Hillsboro Village in Nashville.

"The Perfect Wisdom Of Our God"
This is a prayer for us to understand God's wisdom at work in all of creation, at the cross and through every moment of life. There are often no simple one-line answers to the different struggles and sadnesses we face in this life but there is real confidence and comfort found as we think on his perfect wisdom and eternal purposes.

Keith & Kristyn Getty: A song-by-song rundown of 'Hymns For The Christian Life'

"Kyrie Eleison"
This hymn is about developing awareness of the spiritual and physical needs of those around us, near and far, particularly those who still have not heard of Christ. It was written for the closing communion of the historic Lausanne Congress in Capetown. We were very disappointed to miss the conference (Kristyn was pregnant with Eliza at the time!), but it made the privilege of being able to write for it all the more significant. As the conference was in Capetown, we took a melody inspired by South African gospel music we had heard on a previous visit there and built the song around that. We hope its use will also be a great opportunity for congregations to sing in harmony.

"Gethsemane" was written as a prequel to our hymn "The Power Of The Cross". It considers the anguish of Christ in the Garden as he wrestles with the grief that marks the road ahead of him and the costly reach of grace that comes as every sin is covered, every single one. Our darkest moments find a resting place here in the darkest of all moments as the God who becomes fully human fully saves us.

"In Christ Alone"
Featuring Alison Krauss
As we consider the journey of life which takes us to an end, and then a new beginning, we wanted to rerecord "In Christ Alone" (which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary) to capture that sentiment of whole-heartedly and single-mindedly trusting Christ from moment to moment. Not long ago, our friend, Ron Block, introduced us to Alison Krauss who sang this song at a friend's funeral. Her voice has inspired us for years and we are so thrilled and grateful to have her on this recording in duet with Kristyn.

"Nothing But The Blood"
We always finish our concerts with an old hymn arranged in a newer way, and after years of requests we have finally recorded one especially for this project! In keeping with the blend of sounds throughout the album, it features two American folk songs, "Angeline, The Baker" and "Bonaparte's Retreat", and finishes with the Irish melody, "Toss The Feathers".

"Holy Spirit" with "Gabriel's Oboe"
"Holy Spirit" is the first song I wrote with Stuart after our move to America. We perform it near the end of our concerts with Deborah Klemme's beautiful performance of the melody "Gabriel's Oboe", from the film The Mission. We have also often used it as the underscore for reading the prayer of St Patrick. The song is a prayer that the Holy Spirit will change us within, that the fruits of the Spirit would be seen outwardly, and that his Church would go out from a service of worship to humbly represent the face of Christ in the world each day.

"Oh, Shout For Joy (The New Hundredth)"
This is a new setting of Psalm 100 - a call to worship with all of our lives.

"My Heart Is Filled With Thankfulness"
Thankfulness can be a remedy for so many things - cynicism, anxiety, impatience, pride - all things which can weigh us down day to day. This song gives thanks for spiritual blessings in Christ - past, present and the days to come.

"Echoes Of Heaven (Wedding Song)"
Built on the music of the Irish folk melody "She Moves Through The Fair", Kristyn penned a new lyric for the wedding of a friend that also resonates with all who are the bride of Christ. CR

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.