This band is a ‘classic era’ CCM super-group by any measure. Do these guys still have what it takes? Oh, yeah – they do. All involved have done nothing but hone their skills through the years…
The Union Of Sinners And Saints
Cul De Sac Records
12 tracks / 50:14
You don’t have to be a seasoned fan of what The Ancients used to call Contemporary Christian Music to like this – but it helps. Me? I was born when The Dead Sea was just sick, so I’m enjoying the combined sounds of Petra, Whiteheart, and various other survivors of those good old days when men were men, Christian bands still mentioned Jesus, and preachers were condemning the whole thing to the darkest pits of Hell, where turntables only played backwards.
If any of that made sense to you, you probably remember when John Schlitt was Petra’s lead singer and Billy Smiley played guitar with the first incarnation of Whiteheart. The two iconic CCM performers, along with bass player Anthony Sallee, and drummer Jon Knox (also Whiteheart alumni), Jason Fowler (vocals and guitar) and session player Jonathan Crone (vocals, guitar and keyboard) comprise the line-up known as The Union Of Sinners And Saints, a band that – along with some interesting friends – create new music with a distinctly classic CCM-era sound.
Did I mention ‘interesting friends’ in that last paragraph? How about, oh …Peter Furler (newsboys), Phil Keaggy, Chris McHugh (drums for Whiteheart, Amy Grant, Peter Frampton, Owsley, Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, etc., on and on, ad infinitum), Dann Huff (guitar for Whiteheart, Giant, Steven Curtis Chapman, Faith Hill, Megadeath, etc.), Petra’s Bob Hartman and John Lawry, a guy named Michael W Smith on B3, and others? By most standards this would be called a super-group project …except that we’re Christians and we’re supposed to be humble. But, yeah – this is pretty much a super group.
So the question is, do these guys still have what it takes? Oh, yeah – they do. Schlitt’s vocals are still raspy and powerful, and all of the players have done nothing but even further hone their skills through the years. Smiley and Schlitt know how to write and arrange solid, commercial rock and roll, and with occasional help from the likes of Fowler, JohnEllis and Peter Furler (who’s written a hit or two in his day) they’ve produced a solid batch of rock-radio ready tunes.
Nine of the twelve tracks are originals, with one Petra cover (a well-done, energetic “Beyond Belief”) and one Whiteheart cover (“Independence Day”). A possible miscue, judgement-wise, is ending the album with a well-executed, but predictably arranged and somewhat out of place, “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today,” which feels a bit like a left-over from a Schlitt solo album or a Petra Easter special. The anthemic chorus of a song like the solid rock ballad, “Lone Soldier” might have been the better last-word for this project.
The new songs rock solidly, have economical but powerful solos, and real endings! The big, devotional power ballad is “My Offering,” which features the kind of lyrics that will certainly please Christian radio:
“So take me, use me, mold me, and make me
Into the one I should be
And teach me, show me, lovingly change me
Into the one I can be… “
The rest of the songs are life-affirming, positive messages with Christian themes – although not always overt. Lightening up the mood (although with a valid message about the value of experience) is “Old Guys Rule,” a raucous rocker that declares, “Old guys rule – we ain’t fools, old guys rule!” Where’s my bumper-sticker?
So, yeah – these guys rock. ‘Old?’ Just a state of mind…