If there's a prototypical album for Starbucks to play on Sunday mornings, this is it. Whether that's a good or bad thing will ultimately shape opinions about Bradley Sowash's For The Beauty Of The Earth. He performs the fourteen solo piano hymns and spirituals well with a sprinkling of personal accents and a lively contemporary sound, but little overall departure from the actual compositions. It is, essentially, a gifted lounge pianist taking his Saturday evening gig to church the next morning.
Sowash, an Ohio concert pianist and music teacher, describes his music as "somewhere on the musical spectrum between Ellington's playfulness and Beethoven's romanticism. The final release in a trio of solo spiritual collections is promoted as having "a decidedly personal feel and features four songs at the end from previous albums.
All of the songs are well-known and immediately recognizable, with Sowash dressing melodies up with embellishments and flourishes of varying styles. The common theme is a dramatic left hand with a more free-spirited right one. He gives a heavy boogie-woogie bass to "Glory, Glory Hallelujah and a pounding blues beat to "Go Down Moses. "This Little Light Of Mine has a playful rolling quality in both the bass and melody lines. "Shall We Gather By The River possesses a slow and slightly bluesy mournfulness, while "Doxology has something of a New Age quality that might easily be mistaken for a Dave Grusin soundtrack score.
There's little doubt this album will resonate with the audience Sowash appears to be aiming for: casual listeners seeking a pleasant if unchallenging background of spirituals. It is hardly an accomplishment of musical innovation but, having chosen his mission, he fulfills it with a sincere touch.
1. Glory, Glory, Hallelujah
3. For the Beauty of the Earth
4. Shall We Gather By The River
5. Standin’ In The Need of Prayer
6. Just As I Am/Sanctus
7. By and By
8. This Little Light of Mine
9. Go Down Moses
10. The Ash Grove
11. Take It On Faith
13. Steps to the Soul
14. Amazing Grace