STYLE: Roots/Acoustic RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 82659-15764 LABEL: Brian Houston 823566054023 FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 1 RELEASE DATE: 2009-08-13 RRP: £9.99
Reviewed by Mike Rimmer
It only seems like yesterday that 'Three Feet From Gold' was released and here is the Belfast-based singer once again presenting some new material. For those who have been longing for him to release another worship project after he's been concentrating on his mainstream singer/songwriter material, you're going to love this. Probably. I say probably because this isn't a worship album, but it is fantastic! In a cunning move that allows Houston to create songs with an obvious spiritual message but in a style that won't alienate his established audience, 'Gospel Road' is in the style of the Pentecostal church songs of the mid 20th century. This is the music form that blended with country and gospel and blues to form the nascent rock'n'roll of the '50s. It's not a million miles from Elvis's gospel recordings and, of course, fits nicely into Houston's own range of influences. Although there is one non-Houston original, you'd struggle to pick it out of the pile. Without a trip to Sun Studios, Houston has managed to re-create that stripped down sound, complete with harmonies and backing vocals. So "When A Man Loves The Lord" has tender harmonies that owe a great deal to the black church. Songs like "Safe In The Arms" and "Lead Me To The Rock" sound just like the songs your grandma might have sung when she was a little girl, if your grandma went to the right kind of church! When I hear "All I Need", it's easy to imagine Elvis singing a song like this which is a compliment to Houston's skill as a songwriter and arranger. I bet it was good fun to record this, it's certainly good fun to listen to. In the style of the era, these songs all clock in on the short side which means the entire album of 11 songs doesn't even touch thirty minutes in length. But remember, it's quality not quantity that counts here and the warmth and beauty of Houston's voice as he sings these sacred songs is well worth whatever you're paying for the pleasure!
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On Gospel Road Brian Houston has crafted a set of faith-based, Spirit-filled, God-praising songs, returning to country-gospel territory that he obviously relishes. These are songs that Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley would happily have sung! Lead Me To The Rock would have been perfect for Elvis; Cash would have enjoyed I Will Trust in My Lord. You can hear The Temptations doing the a cappella God Don’t Worry, while Sweet Jesus is a traditional hymn in the most traditional sense. Belfast rock critic Stuart Bailie has spoken of East Belfast writers like Houston as having the cadences of the Wesley brothers (John and Charles) as much as they have Lennon and McCartney, and on evidence of this stunning record, you wouldn't argue.