jwatson

Music Review: Sacred by Jean Watson

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Updated February 15, 2019
Sacred
St. Patrick's Breastplate (Prayer of St. Patrick) - Jean Watson

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$9.99 (website)

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Track Listing

Track1
Ubi Caritas/Gather Us In
Track2
The Doxology
Track3
Prepare The Way
Track4
I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say
Track5
St. Patrick's Breastplate
Track6
Jesus Christ The Apple Tree
Track7
Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee
Track8
Fairest Lord Jesus
Track9
Holy Holy Holy
Track10
How Can I Keep From Singing
Track11
Hallelujah (Bonus Track)

A stunning collection of ancient and modern hymns set in 'Celtic Woman' style. Features guest performances by Matthew Ward, Phil Keaggy on guitar, and Matt Slocum of 'Sixpence None the Richer"

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Editor review

1 reviews

Sacred by Jean Watson
Overall rating 
 
10.0
Vocals 
 
10.0
Lyrics 
 
10.0
Originality 
 
10.0
Value 
 
10.0
Personal Rating 
 
10.0
Back in 2016 I reviewed an album by Jean Watson called "Wonder".  It was a great album with a mix of some classical tunes mixed with some modern worship tracks and boasted input from Christian musicians like Peter Furler and Michael W. Smith. It was an album that I really enjoyed, but the memory dims and in this job there is always new music to listen to and you forget just how enjoyable an album it was! Jean is now back with this new album called "Sacred", and like the last project it boasts some impressive names in the production such as, Matthew Ward, Phil Keaggy (an absolute legend and pioneer of Christian music) and Matt Slocum.

Where last time out the album had a mix of older classical pieces and modern worship in a Celtic style, this album brings its focus to some more traditional liturgy and hymns and doesn't bother too much with anything modern. "Ubi Caritas/Gather Us In" which opens with a traditional sounding "Ubi Caritas" which repeats the first couple of lines of the Mass of the Last Supper, if you are a non-conformist Evangelical don't be scared by the latin - the lines sung just translate as; " Where charity and love are, God is there, love of Christ has gathered us into one". The rest of the track is an arrangement of Marty Haugen's hymn "Gather Us In". Jean's vocals on this album are hauntingly beautiful, reminding me of Moya Brennan, but with a slightly higher tone to her voice.

The second track is "The Doxology", even if this is not your tradition, this is a familiar liturgy that is used in many forms of Christian worship. The familiar reprise of "Praise God from whom all blessings flow..." is here but amongst a song based around a traditional hymn from 1695. The 1600's must be good source material for this type of album because Jean's next track, "Prepare The Way" is based on a hymn from 1642 called "Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates". Brimming with Celtic influence this track utilises some great violin sounding like an Irish jig between the verses which lifts the weight of the song brilliantly. Despite the age of this hymn it sounds nice and fresh with this arrangement. It's not often that you can say that a song written in 1846 is a lot more modern than the track before it, but that is the case with this traditional hymn, one that I am very familiar with and love for it's beauty and truth. The hymn is "I Heard The Voice Of Jesus Say" and Jean uses the traditional "Kingsfold" tune with a slightly different arrangement. Through this along with the instrumentation she also uses some ambient sounds which add a lot of depth to the musical landscape of this song.

This album contains the second version of "St Patrick's Breastplate" that I have heard in recent months, the other version was on Stuart Townend's "Courage" album. This has a much more intricate and authentic sounding backing, with a lovely orchestral feel. The video for this track is also a pleasure to watch and you can view it above. The next track which some count as a Christmas carol is "Jesus Christ The Apple Tree" and this track also has a long history, although it's not a song I am particularly familiar with. That is in contrast to the brilliant version of "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee" that is next on the disc. Sometimes this song, whilst trying to honour the traditional version of the hymn, can really drag and sound less joyful than the title would suggest, but here the arrangement and percussion keep a very good pace. Things do slow down a little for "Fairest Lord Jesus" with the lightness of the vocal and simple accompaniment from plucked guitar and other acoustic instruments.

"Holy, Holy, Holy" is another traditional hymn and here it is the little touches of Celtic inspiration that distinguish this from other versions as the percussion and whistle that weave their way through the lyrics. The last hymn that rounds out this album is "How Can I Keep From Singing" which allows a little reverb on Jean's vocal and a light touch on the piano to make this a beautiful end to the main album selection. There is one extra bonus track which is an arrangement of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" which also closed out the previous "Wonder" Album.

This is an incredibly beautiful selection of music, if you are a fan of Clannad or other bands within the Spiritual Celtic section then you will love this album. This recording oozes class from beginning to end with quality musicians and fabulous vocals bringing a real delight to the ears, but also to the heart and soul.  One of the things that marks this out is the engagement and arrangement of the original material. Anyone can record hymns, but not many people can take the 11 years of the song that "The Doxology" was based on and use that inspiration to bring out the heart of the song for a new audience. These arrangements are simply wonderful. As I write this the last strains of the violin used on "Hallelujah" have just faded reminding me that even without words, and a very familiar piece of music there is still a lot of warmth and talent in arranging this in a way that I don't tire of listening to it. Some people may be put off by the idea of older songs on this release, but for me, with my love of hymns, I found it absolutely captivating.
RA

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