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Mar 18

GAC Album Review: Steven Curtis Chapman’s Deep Roots

Steven Curtis Chapman

Steven Curtis Chapman’s 2013 album, Deep Roots. Photo courtesy of Essential Broadcast Media.

It’s a family affair on Steven Curtis Chapman’s latest album Deep Roots, his new bluegrass influenced project available exclusively at Cracker Barrel, iTunes and Featuring three generations of Chapmans, Deep Roots explores the rural sounds of Steven’s native Kentucky through 12 songs balancing his Contemporary Christian message with traditional roots-inspired arrangements.

Known best for his work as an award-winning CCM artist, Steven doesn’t veer from the course thematically on the new set that features both established hymns as well as recast renditions of several of his greatest hits. Though the songs on Deep Roots are filled with bright acoustic guitars, fluttering mandolin and some front porch dobro, Steven does an excellent job shaping his devotionals to the new sound. “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus” uses singing fiddle, round bass and rolling guitars to fill out the track while the delivery remains modern with a pleasing, pop-based melody. The personal, ¾ time, “Blessed Assurance,” features chord changes toeing the line between folk and pop as Steven sings, This is my song praising my savior, with a delicate voice. And on “Rock Of Ages,” Steven offers up the album’s best vocal performance with a daring delivery that reaches far yet always maintains control.

Only twice on Deep Roots are songs given a strict Southern Gospel treatment. “Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad (Life’s Railway To Heaven)” is a down home, banjo pickin’ tune that bounces along comfortably as Steven’s father, Herb Sr., and brother, Herb Jr., join him in fantastic harmony. Steven’s father and brother also join on “He Touched Me,” a slow hymn that transforms from dark to light halfway through with a pivotal key change. It’s understandable considering his history as a pop influenced artist, yet after hearing how nicely these two songs come across, the idea of hearing Steven lend his voice to a few more Southern Gospel cuts is quite intriguing.

Adding to the Deep Roots family roster, Steven’s son, Caleb, duets with his father on the peaceful, “Be Still and Know,” where the two combine for touching call-and-response harmonies. The traditional “How Great Thou Art” features his daughter-in-law, Jillian Edwards Chapman, trading off verses with him over intricate guitar work. And though he technically isn’t a blood relative, fellow bluegrass state native Ricky Skaggs collaborates on “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” with a natural and easy chemistry.

Working again with longtime CCM producer Brent Milligan (Audio Adrenaline, tobyMac), Steven reaches deep into his own catalog for many of the songs included on the set. The highlight track, “Hiding Place,” which features Steven’s steady vocal safely above dramatic piano, along with “My Redeemer Is Faithful and True,” were both originally heard on his 1987 debut, First Hand. And “His Eyes,” a touching song painting the Lord as a father figure, was pulled from his 1988 record, Real Life Conversations. However, it’s the sweetly-penned “Cinderella” from 2007’s This Moment, that ties Deep Roots together. A song written for his daughters, and one he once said he would probably never play again following the death of his daughter, Maria Sue, in 2008, “Cinderella” magnifies both his family and spiritual relationships with a touching and powerful sincerity. It’s a poignant close to an album that gains its strength from his family while offering heartfelt devotionals.

Key Tracks – “Cinderella,” “Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad (Life’s Railway To Heaven),” “Hiding Place,” “Be Still And Know”


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