by Kevin Burton
Ever been around a really good singer, who really, really wanted people to notice how good they were?
We all have. Makes you appreciate those great voices filled with love, as opposed to pride.
Ever liked a record, then listened again years later and found a new level of appreciation?
Both questions come into play on this, my seventh post answering the album challenge, talking about records that influenced me.
Today it’s the 1979 album “It Was His Love” by Cynthia Clawson on Triangle Records.
Clawson is no cookie-cutter Nashville singer “product.” Hers is “The most awesome voice in gospel music,” according to Billboard magazine.
The tonal nuance Clawson can get from her voice, most people would have a tough time coaxing from a sax or violin.
But Clawson’s approach is such that it is easy to overlook how brilliant her vocal performance is. Back in the day, I missed it. Her talent underscores the gospel message in her songs.
It’s not, “hey, look at me,” it’s “hey, look at Jesus!”
The marriage of such a spectacular voice and the greatest message ever conveyed is nothing short of Heaven-blessed.
She started singing at age three. She has won five Dove awards and the 1981 Grammy for “best gospel performance, contemporary or inspirational.”
The website discogs.com classifies “It Was His Love” in the “funk/soul, pop” genre, which makes me laugh out loud. There is no funk on this record, trust me.
To cut the website some slack, Clawson is so versatile she is hard to classify. And, you do have to consider the song “Ain’t It The Gospel Truth.”
That song has one unmistakable marking of disco, the so-called “four-on-the-floor” rhythm pattern (drum beat on the on beats, cymbal on the off beats). But it can hardly be mistaken for “Ring My Bell.”
Only by “reviewing” the record by listening to just this song can you get “funk/soul” from it. Even that is a stretch.
So if the set isn’t funk, what is it? Well Clawson can handle anything. “Her talents bridge the arts of music, theatre and cabaret,” according to a bio on her website, www.cynthiaclawson.com. It’s a pop record with country, gospel and theatrical flavorings.
God’s amazing grace, applied to real-life flawed Christians, would sound an awful lot like “You Have Loved Me Through It All.”
In the song we eavesdrop on a prayer. The music is pleasant, but the honesty of the lyrics is what stands out. Lines such as “thinking about where all the love I‘ve spent has really gone” are arresting.
The southern gospel “It’s An Unfriendly World” reminds us that earth is just a way station, with Heaven being the real home of a Christian.
The song “Ye Who Are Lonely,” portrays Jesus as a figure in the shadows amidst the nearby noise and neon, quietly calling to people to come to Him. Not forcing, but inviting. The invitation goes to “ye who are lonely, ye that are filled with confusion…”
Clawson, the narrator, is “looking back into my life at things I’d never seen before.”
Lyrics that I always liked now have a new depth. Years ago I reached for these songs. Now these songs are reaching for me.
Lyrics for “The Tabernacle of God” are from Revelation 21: 1-5. The story is greatly aided by the musical treatment given it. The verses have a slow tempo and a sound that connotes an impenetrable mystery, which is unfortunately the way many view Revelation.
But the chorus quickens into the celebration that Heaven is meant to be. “The tabernacle of God is with men again and he shall dwell with them and they shall be His people and He shall be their God…”
Clawson has made a career of weaving God’s love and God’s truth into simple beautiful songs. Her song “Words and Music” sums that up nicely.
The songs are right there, accessible, for those who soar and those who stumble.
“Every year I’m learning more and more about trusting God,” Clawson said in a 1995 interview. “He just loves me no matter what. Even if I make bad grades in life.”