3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.
After singing with groups like Heaven Bound and the Journeymen, Anthony Facello joined Garry Jones’ Mercy’s Mark Quartet as a founding member in 2004. Shortly after he left that group in 2006, he started his own group, Anthony Facello and Crossroad. (They would later be renamed Beyond the Ashes.)
Beyond the Ashes carved out a spot on the Southern Gospel spectrum that moved the markers and left groups like Brian Free & Assurance or the Crist Family, by comparison, labeled as “moderately progressive.” Through a couple of personnel changes, they have maintained a consistent progressive trio sound. They spent several years with Vine Records (run by Wayne Haun and Kevin Ward); Living in the Moment is their debut release for Stow Town Records (run by Wayne Haun and Ernie Haase).
Their diverse influences show in their song selection. They cover songs from artists as diverse as the Collingsworth Family (“Oh, the Thought that Jesus Loves Me”) and pop singer Jason Mraz (“Living in the Moment.”) It doesn’t seem that Mraz, who co-wrote the latter song, intended it as an overtly Christian song; he describes himself as a syncretist who doesn’t “follow any type of religious doctrine or any type of rules that any one religion creates”; however, the case can be made that the song’s lyrics, including “peace in my heart / peace in my soul,” “I’ve let my past go past / and now I’m having more fun” and “wherever I’m going, I’m already home / I’m living in the moment” allow room to be interpreted within a Christian context.
Perhaps to counterbalance the lyrical risk in the title track—many of the other lyrics on the album cover familiar turf in familiar ways: No sin is greater than grace. Jesus gives us peace in the storm. Jesus loves us. Love whispers our name. Love comes shining through.
Fans of progressive Southern Gospel are likely to enjoy Living in the Moment. If your tastes run more middle-of-the-road (Perrys, Triumphant) to traditional (Dixie Echoes, Blackwood Brothers), it is unlikely to be your cup of tea. But even then, you may well enjoy several individual tracks, like “Where Gold Begins” and “Oh, the Thought that Jesus Loves Me.”
Group Members: Anthony Facello (tenor), Dustin Doyle (lead), Kellan Monroe (baritone). (Note: This review was written before Kellan Monroe’s departure, announced on his Facebook page this week.)
Credits: Producer: Wayne Haun. Recorded by Kevin Ward at The Sound Emporium, Studio B Nashville, Tennessee, assisted by Michael Stankiewicz. Additional tracking by Steve Dady. Mixed by Jeff Pitzer. Mastered by Alan Silverman. Musicians: Jason Webb (piano, keyboards, B3 organ), David Huntsinger (piano, B3 organ), Virgil Stratford (piano, B3 organ), Gordon Mote (piano), Hans Nelson (keyboards, programming), Duncan Mullins (bass guitar), Craig Nelson (bass guitar), Mark Hill (bass guitar), Kevin Ward (bass guitar), Danny O’Lannerghty (bass guitar, acoustic bass), Ricky Free (drums & percussion), John Hammond (drums & percussion), Steve Brewster (drums & percussion), Zak Shumate (drums & percussion), Kelly Back (electric and acoustic guitars), Dave Cleveland (electric and acoustic guitars), Joel Key (acoustic guitar), Scott Sanders (steel guitar, resophonic guitar), Jeff Pitzer (accordion), Randy Miller (harmonica), Wayne Haun (orchestrations).
Song List (songwriters in parentheses): So Amazing to Me (Wayne Haun; Rachel McCutcheon); Living in the Moment (Jason Mraz; Richard Nowels); Oh the Thought that Jesus Loves Me (Wayne Haun; Lyn Rowell); No Sin Greater Than God’s Grace (Anthony Facello; Rachel McCutcheon); Peace In the Midst of the Storm (Stephen Adams); Walking With My Eyes on Jesus (Rachel McCutcheon); I Can’t Do This By Myself (Joel Lindsey, Wayne Haun); Where the Gold Begins (Carl Cartee; Joseph Dustin Daniels; Allen Stanford Dukes; David Blake Neesmith; Aaron Daniel Tomberlin; Nathan Timothy Tomberlin); When Love Whispers Your Name (Ernie Haase, Joel Lindsey); Your Love Comes Shining Through (Wayne Haun, Jimmy Yeary); Over For Good (Marcy Each, Karen Gillespie, Kimberly Walling Ford).