Wes King: One of Nashville CCM's top songwriters

Monday 1st April 1991

Paul Lewis checked out the music and life singer/songwriter WES KING.

Wes King
Wes King

A large scale career in music ministry is dawning for singer/ songwriter Wes King, and he can't help but come off a little wide-eyed about the measure of growth and success he's experienced. Surely, part of it is his Georgia-bred mindset that reels as his life changes a little every day, but look at it objectively: The Lord has brought King's music quite a long way in the last few years.

Only five years ago the impish blue-eyed blond was bopping around the South on weekends, embarking on singing road trips from his Christian college campus. Today, Reunion is issuing his debut album The Ultimate Underlying No Denying Motivation', produced by friend and manager Gary Chapman along with Jerry McPherson.

It all came down in the mid-80s, during those seminal years at Covenant College in Chattanooga. One night he arrived late at a weekend gig for a Precept Ministries youth group of about 500, finding out 30 minutes before showtime that he was to share the stage with a woman named Kim Hill. From that successful collaboration sprang a professional and personal relationship that King refers to glowingly a few times during our discussion. After a particularly hard year spent grappling with personal problems, King needed some encouragement and persuasion to tour with Hill to promote her first album throughout 1988 and '89. God's hand was in it.

"She was great," says King. "She just made me feel like anything that I'd been through was not enough to keep me from loving God, because He always forgives and His grace is sufficient." In retrospect, the ensuing time on the road was sort of a Reunion audition, and because the company put two thumbs up, we are introduced to this budding talent.

How can you blame the guy who once enjoyed the laudation of the YFC and FCA back in high school, if he seems daunted by the wild popularity of one of his songs in Sweden? Kim Hill's rendition of "Snake In The Grass" became so popular due to widespread radio airplay in that country, that she was virtually compelled to rush over there to do a show. King's retells her account of the berserk Swedish concertgoers with a trace of astonishment.

Why should God give his simple songs a national platform? Maybe it's because he's good. The folksy, pop-rock guitar melodies are in a fast-hand percussive style that his record company likes to call 'acoustic groove'. In his words: "I'm white, but I feel like a lot of my songs groove a little bit." Branching off from his self-taught studies of albums by Phil Keaggy, Mark Heard and Pat Terry, King has cooked up a guitar-abusing drum-strum that channels his spunk through the instrument into the spirit of the song.

"I'm not a creative genius or anything, but I've kind of created a style that I would like to think is unique to myself. I was trying to make it interesting, it's not just a guy up there strummin' an acoustic guitar." His right hand is more active than the norm, "hitting the octaves, chiming, bending the neck, stuff that you really shouldn't do on an acoustic guitar, but it's the acoustic guitar that will let me do it, so..."

The tunes carry messages that are somehow fresh and right at the heart of a young adult's concerns: What is my future, and how much is up to me? Where is this relationship going, and how fast should we go? When will I find that all-redeeming love, and who will it come from?

"The songs on the album are my way of saying to my generation to put Jesus first in their lives, and not let their emotions pull them away," summarises King. "High school and college are trying times, but a strong faith will get you through. I know, because it wasn't too long ago that I was there. I want to encourage them to keep the faith."

Wes King is not all that distant from the emotional whirlwind of adolescence he sings about. His music hits home in a way similar to the rest of this invigorating new generation of real artists coming up, only substituting a dashing young baby face for the world-weary scars and stubble of a Rick Elias or a David Mullen. Consider that King's authentic songwriting has been extolled by these honest upstarts of the genre as well as seasoned kingmakers like Chapman and Reunion's Blanton/ Harrell.

Talk of such heady topics as touring and radio are dismissed with a chuckle - King and company have opted to wait for a popular verdict to come in on the album. How many will find his music trustworthy? Wes King is taking a wait-and-see stance when it comes to those hifalutin future plans, and based on what I've learned about his easy, modest nature from his music and our short time together, that just seems to jibe. 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.
About Paul Lewis
American journalist Paul Lewis has had articles published in several different music publications.


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