Kyle Pederson does it again, taking classic spiritual songs and putting a contemporary, piano-based spin on them, in the process making them his own.
The album lives up to the title, as this collection makes these storied tracks live again. The songs are a mix of hymns from the Middle Ages, the Age of Enlightenment, and early to mid-contemporary times. Tunes include “Be Thou My Vision,” “What Wondrous Love Is This,” and “Lord Whose Love in Humble Service.” The standout is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” not only because it is the most recognizable and the most durable composition here, but also because Pederson’s interpretation is a real accomplishment precisely because of those reasons.
Pederson deliberately chose not to use the organ on any of these tracks because of the instrument’s inseparable identification with this music. Pederson’s performance on piano keeps the recordings classy and elegant, with some accompaniment by other musicians on guitar, mandolin, bass, violin, cello, and oboe. The extra instrumentation provides just enough of a hint of embellishment without overwhelming the sacrosanct nature of the songs.
People who enjoy hymns should enjoy Pederson’s take on these classic spirituals, but people of all faiths, if any, should appreciate this disc as well, as was Pederson’s intention.