Reviewed by Phil Thomson
Fine playing probably isn't enough to save this from being a rather dull encounter with Mr Markin, the singer, songwriter and producer now living back in his Canadian homeland who, for a number of years, was a fixture of the UK scene. 'Acoustic Hymns Project' is all poorly paced, guitar instrumental versions of hymn favourites and, in truth, there is little here that brings anything particularly new, stimulating or refreshing to the evergreens here. Johnny's playing isn't virtuoso but it isn't bad either - just predictable. The rather impoverished arrangements and the brevity of most of the tracks are bound to leave the listener frustrated - no, baffled. And it is all a bit schizo: witness the jaunty, countrified "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" - more suited to line dancing than a serious appreciation of the sentiment - or the slow, irksome and aimless "Take My Life And Let It Be". It is as if Markin is working his way through a Christian guitar sampler, making short stabs at the pieces in that good old 'I've-bought-the-sheet-music' kind of way. But it rarely connects. It takes the under-used Celtic add-ons to create any texture or interest, as with Sara Wiebe's recorder or the accordion of Lyndon Toftager. I cannot see the point in wrapping competent playing around well-known titles when the opportunity is there to take risks, innovate, add something. And why the ponderous "Amazing Grace" - surely one of the most over-exposed tunes in any decade. Frankly, it shows a singular lack of imagination. Surely a showcase for this man's considerable technical talent would have been original material, or at best more oblique and challenging interpretations.
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Johnny Markin returns with his first solo album in more than a decade. A fresh, creative instrumental approach to songs which have deeply inspired so many.
Beautiful, intricate arrangements that include guitars, accordian, whistles and djembe breathe a new sense of awe into these wonderful hymns. An accomplished recording perfect for reflection and superior background music.