Michael English was born on April 12, 1962 in Kenansville, North Carolina. Over the years he has been a member of The Singing Samaritans, The Singing Americans, The Goodmans, and The Gospel Couriers. He is currently a member of The Gaither Vocal Band. His debut solo disc which was self-titled won two Dove Awards for him in 1992 for Male Vocalist and New Artist of the Year. In 1994 he confessed to having an affair with Marabeth Jordan of First Call, a group that was touring with him. She suffered a miscarriage. English divorced and tried his hand in mainstream music. He recorded the duet ‘Healing’ with Wynonna Judd. Later, his cover of John Berry’s 1994 hit ‘Your Love Amazes Me’ did well. Eventually English would return to Christian music. He also remarried. SOME PEOPLE CHANGE (2012, Curb Records) is his eighth solo album.
The album begins with an upbeat country number ‘I Ain’t Givin’ Up on Jesus’. CCM vet Chris McHugh plays drums, and banjo and fiddle are also used. This song makes it clear where Michael places his faith: “Hard times can make a grown man cry/Some folks wanna cuss their Maker/I say just give Him time/I ain’t givin’ up on Jesus/He ain’t never give up on me/Ain’t nothin’ gonna come between us/I ain’t givin’ up on Jesus.” ‘Come to the River’ features Michael’s vocal hero and former Imperial, Russ Taff. This song has an old time gospel feel. It is an invitation to be spiritually rejuvenated: “You weary soldier with battered shield/Come bathe your wounds and you will be healed/Your heart renewed and your hope restored/Just go under the water and thirst no more/Come wash in the river/Come drink your fill/Let healing waters/Bear away your guilt/Lay down your burdens/On that beautiful shore/Come wash in the river/Come be reborn.” ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus’ was penned in 1939 by Rhea Miller and George Shea. Michael delivers a moving version of it here, with Charlie Judge on strings. The song describes our Saviour as a priceless treasure: “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold/I’d rather have Him than have riches untold/I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands/I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand/Than to be the king of a vast domain/And be held in sin’s dread sway/I’d rather have Jesus than anything/This world affords today.”
Neil Thrasher, Jason Sellers, and Michael Dulaney wrote the mid-tempo country song ‘Some People Change’. What a wonderful title track! It is a story song about the evils of racism and alcoholism. It encourages relatives of those trapped in sin not to give up on their loved ones: “Thank God for those who made it/Let them be the Light/Here’s to the strong; thanks to the brave/Don’t give up hope, some people change/Against all odds, against the grain/Love finds a way, some people change.” ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)’ features super talented vocalist Crystal Lewis. It is a groovy song with horns and saxophones. It is about the power of romantic love: “When the river was deep, I didn’t falter/When the mountain was high, I still believed/When the valley was low, it didn’t stop me, no/I knew you were waiting/I knew you were waiting for me/With an endless desire/I kept on searching/Sure in time our eyes would meet.”
‘On That Great Day’ is a mellow track featuring The Martins. It looks forward with anticipation to the glorious future awaiting us as believers: “We’ll meet at the river/We’ll be delivered of every chain/Down into the water/Children, mothers, and fathers in His sweet Name/To drown all our sins/And come up again forever changed/Never to return/To the people we were before that great day/We will patiently wait ‘til we see His face.” A creative remake of Michael’s signature song from 1991 ‘In Christ Alone’ follows. Ilya Toshinskiy plays acoustic guitar, Kenny Greenberg and Sean Neff play electric, and harp is also used. The lyrics point to Jesus as the only reason to boast: “In Christ alone/I place my trust/And find my glory/In the power of the cross/In every victory/Let it be said of me/My source of strength/My source of hope/Is Christ alone.”
A new imagining of the old gospel classic ‘I Wouldn’t take nothing for my Journey’ (1964) for a younger audience, is up next. Harmonica, fiddle, and dobro are used, while Gaither Vocal Band members Mark Lowry, David Phelps, and Wes Hampton lend vocals. This is a song of gratitude: “There’s nothing in the world that’ll ever take the place of God’s love/Silver and gold could never buy a mighty touch from above/When my soul needs healing and I begin to feeling His power/I can say ‘Thank the Lord, I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.``` Jennie Lee Riddle and Michael Farren wrote `Waking Up the Dawn` which finds Michael in CCM territory. It is a song of celebration: ``With the yearning for our King to come/Every tribe and tongue with a voice of one/Hear the melodies of hearts in love/Arise and shine one and all/We’re waking up the dawn/Soon the sun will never set again/All our sorrows will finally end/With the waking of the dawn (2X).” ‘Stubborn (Psalm 15)’ is a mighty fine CCM ballad that finds Michael struggling with the devil: “There’s a molecule of faith in this room/What they used to call a mustard seed/There’s a molecule of faith in this room/And a book that says that’s all I’ll ever need/I don’t know where it is, but I hope I find it soon/’Cause nothing else will ever set me free/There’s a molecule of faith in this room/And even though it’s much too small to see/If I have the courage to believe/I’ll find the One who left it here for me.” As a special bonus cut, Michael covers ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ (1949) by Hank Williams. It is a sad tune: “Did you ever see a robin weep/When leaves begin to die?/That means he’s lost the will to live/I’m so lonesome I could cry/The silence of a falling star/Lights up a purple sky/And as I wonder where you are/I’m so lonesome I could cry.”
SOME PEOPLE CHANGE finds Michael’s voice in fine form. It is an album of great maturity and depth. Fans of Guy Penrod, Russ Taff, and Clay Crosse will enjoy it. Michael is one of my all time favourite male vocalists. You can catch him live at Church on the Queensway this New Year’s Eve. I’m rating SOME PEOPLE CHANGE 90%. It was mainly produced by Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts. Visit www.michaelenglishmusic.com for more info.