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Music Review: Fanny Crosby: Newly Discovered Hymns & Songs by Various Artists

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Updated June 13, 2018

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Fanny Crosby was an American mission worker, poet, lyricist, and composer. She was one of the most prolific hymnists in history, writing more than 8,000 hymns and gospel songs, despite being blind from shortly after birth. She is also known for her teaching and her rescue mission work. By the end of the 19th century, she was a household name.

Co-executive producer Stephen Kelly, an antique hymn collector, found unfinished and unpublished works by Crosby at Wheaton College in Illinois. This discovery has led to a newly recorded project entitled, Fanny Crosby: Newly Discovered Hymns & Songs.

This collection of 15 new productions features today's top artists in Inspirational, Bluegrass and Southern Gospel music. 'This is a project that comes along only once in a career,' stated co-producer Wayne Haun. 'To comb through these unfinished works that were started over 100 years ago is humbling. Each writer carefully composed additional verses, choruses and melodies that remained true to the Crosby style. She was truly one of America's greatest treasures.'

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Fanny Crosby: Newly Discovered Hymns and Songs
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If you love hymns then you will be familiar with the name Fanny Crosby. She was a prolific hymn-writer who was born in 1820. Blind from shortly after birth, she never let her lack of eyesight get in her way, as well as writing hymns she also taught at the New York Institute for the Blind, and was a baptist missionary and lay preacher! If you think someone like Matt Redman is a prolific writer, Fanny Crosby wrote nearly 9000 songs in her lifetime! She has written some of the best known songs that are still widely sung in churches today such as "All The Way My Saviour Leads Me" and "Blessed Assurance". She wrote so many hymns that publishers decided to attribute her songs to different pen names because they didn't want people to realise the proliferation of her work in the hymnals!

So that brings us onto this new collection of songs. Discovered more recently these were partly completed works that have been completed by the various artists on this album. For any person within the Southern Gospel tradition where hymns are still a staple medium this find is a once in a lifetime opportunity. To be involved in bringing to life new songs from someone who has been so hugely influential like Fanny Crosby would be an amazing experience.

Thankfully the artists involved here have respected what Fanny has written before and this project really sounds like those good old hymns that we are used to singing from this writer. The album itself is a bit of a who's-who of the Southern Gospel world with the album starting with "Shout Hosanna" from Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, before tracks from Legacy Five, Charles Billingsley, The Erwins, The Booth Brothers, The Collingsworth Family and The Perry's to name but a few!

These songs really do keep true to Fanny Crosby's own style and there is no real attempt to change or modernise the feel of these songs, of course it would be really easy to transfer these to other styles or genres to ignite an interest in this work. The furthest this collection strays from the Southern Gospel style is a quick trip into Bluegrass with "Beside The Cross" which sounds absolutely fabulous from Lizzy Long, Rhonda Vincent & Sally Berry.

Personally I like these songs and I do feel that the artists have done a great job with them, but they aren't the same as the hymns that we know and love! Those hymns have been filtered through church history and of the 9000 written pieces there are probably only 30 or 40 that are still used and familiar today. With these newly completed compositions they don't have the benefit of that filtering process, in reality only a few of these songs might have made the grade if they were completed and released. When you look at a practical antique, a dealer will talk about patina, the signs of wear, use and care that add value and a sign of history to the object - these songs have not got that! They haven't been sung down the years, they don't spark the same memories that those old hymns have. Yes there are some bits of song writing that seem like something that Fanny had previously written, "Hold Me Up" is an example, it's familiar, but it's not got that history of being handled.

If you love hymns and you like the Southern Gospel tradition then this album should definitely be on your 'most wanted' list. There are some great songs and performances here, great words of worship too. If you are a passing listener try this album in the samples above and see if it appeals! For me it's absolutely beautiful, but it's not the same as the great hymns!

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