Gary Chapman was born on August 19, 1957 in Waurika, Oklahoma, but grew up in Texas. Early on he played guitar for The Rambos. In 1979 Amy Grant, whom he would later marry, used his song ‘My Father’s Eyes’ as the title track for her second album. Gary released his first solo album SINCERELY YOURS in 1981. In 1982 his song ‘Finally’ was recorded by T.G. Sheppard and hit No 1 on the country music charts. Gary won a Dove Award for Male Vocalist of the Year in 1996. Also, he hosted ‘Prime Time Country’ on TNT for four years.
Amy Grant divorced Gary in 1999 after about 17 years of marriage. He remarried in 2000 and divorced in 2007. He would go on to meet Cassie Piersol while his production company was shooting a making of a Hooters calendar in the Bahamas. They married in December 2008. She is 23 years his junior. They launched ‘A Hymn a Week’ in 2010 and began posting videos of them on the internet. They have also adopted a little girl, Eva Rose. Gary’s latest and long anticipated album is THE TRUTH (2013, Merf Music Group). Gary shares: “I have no delusions of grandeur at this point in my life and I am pleasantly embracing a place where it doesn’t really matter a whole lot to me what anybody thinks, and I say that with zero arrogance or perceived distance”.
I appreciate the honesty of the first song ‘Freedom’ and its lyrics: “This road that I am travelin’/Is steep and it is rough/And I wonder every mornin’/If I’ll have strength enough/To believe what I’ve been promised/And trust that You are here/To know that Your sweet love/Will drive away the fear with/Freedom, freedom”. ‘Where You’re Going’ is an optimistic adult contemporary song: “When you know where you’re going/You can travel light/And you’re unafraid of narrow roads at midnight/The shadows will give way to dawn/You’ll bless the ground you’re walkin’ on/And stop and thank God for the day/For every step along the way”.
‘If God Had a Front Porch’ is a country ballad featuring the one and only Alison Krauss. It begins with these down-to-earth words: “If God had a front porch/There probably wouldn’t be a front door/Just a welcome mat that said ‘Come on In’/There’d be music in the background/Everybody just hanging out and laughing/Like a bunch of old friends/If God had a front porch”. ‘Ain’t Got a Prayer (Without Jesus)’ is a pleasant, melodic song that exposes the foolishness of materialism: “Everyone I know is doing/Everything they can to have enough/We’re all chasing after dollars when/The dollar says it’s God that we should trust/Wealth cannot be held in houses/Riches quickly flow through empty seeking hands/But there’s comfort in believing we’re all part/Of a much bigger, sweeter plan”.
‘How Great a God’ is a splendid worship song that offers these words of testimony: “I hurt You, You healed me/I left You, You stayed with me/I forgot You, You remembered me/I failed You, You forgave me/And I can’t help but sing/How great a God do we serve/That we don’t get what we deserve/How You take what we give and give love in return/How great a God do we serve”. Gary co-wrote ‘Safe from the Wind’ with Tim Akers. The song admits that life can be quite tough at times: “When the winds of change are blowin’/And the waves are crashin’ in/And I can feel the sand beneath my feet/Start changin’ shape again/When I see the darkness falling/And the night comes stormin’ in/In Your arms I will find shelter/Safe from the wind/That tries to break my heart/Into a million pieces/But in Your care/I spread my wings and fly”.
‘Widow of the South’ is a mellow story song: “She knows he’ll come back some day/And keep the promise that he made/They’re gonna have a baby/Raise him right/And love each other day and night/And start to live again/And slowly become new, old friends/Until then she’ll roam this empty house/Another long forgotten widow of the south”. ‘Put it in His Hands’ features Gary’s daughter, Sarah Chapman. This song reminds us that God wants to carry our burdens: “And if I stumble, remind me/The truth I just told you/To put it in His hands/There ain’t nothing you oughta hold on to/Put it in His hands/He can take care of that for you/Try to understand/When you think that there is nothing you can do/You can/Put it in His hands”.
‘All About a Baby’ is a strong seasonal song featuring the competent vocals of Gary’s wife, Cassie Chapman: “I see our newborn fast asleep and so at peace and it reminds me/It’s all about a cold night/That star shining so bright/Angels singing good news/It’s all about a stable/And a make-shift cradle/Tiny hands reaching out for me and you/I’ve been forgetting it lately/It’s all about a baby”. The lyrics to the inspirational song ‘The Wisdom of Age’ have great depth: “The wisdom of age has moved every mountain/And stretched out over every plain/From page to page/It flows like a fountain/To the sea and comes back as rain/He’s in every breath/He’s in every touch/When we receive the Lord’s saving grace/We walk the road to glory in the wisdom of age/We tell the old, old story in the wisdom of age”.
‘Everything I Know’ was penned by Gary Chapman and Aaron Barker. It is a soft country song that includes these conversational lyrics: “You could fill a million books/With the stuff that I know now but didn’t then/And with all the times I’ve failed/But then turned right ‘round and did the same again/But the good Lord stood beside me/Never once did he forget He loves me so/He’s used every stupid thing so far/To teach me nearly/Everything I know”. ‘When I Say’ features Rebecca Lynn Howard. This memorable song has a humble spirit about it: “When I say ‘I am a Christian’/I’m not bragging of success/I’m admitting that I’ve failed/And can never pay my debt/When I say ‘I am a Christian’/I still feel the sting of pain/I still have my share of heartache/This is why I seek His Name/When I say ‘I am a Christian’/I do not wish to judge/God alone can judge a heart/I just know that I am loved”.
Kenny West and Billy Henderson wrote ‘I Didn’t Find Jesus’. This wonderful song makes it clear that salvation does not come through the church: “I didn’t find Jesus under a steeple/Sittin’ on a pew with all the redeemed souls/I guess you can see I’m one of those people/Living just outside the stained glass window/I stumbled on to the back door of heaven/When the whiskey drove me to my knees/I didn’t find Jesus, He found me”. ‘That’s God’ is a cool country rock song that speaks of God’s tender care for us: “It’s that check in the mail that you weren’t expectin’/That song that saves you when your heart is breakin’/When that loved one you lost is with you in the room/When your biggest hero says ‘I believe in you’/It’s forgiveness when you don’t deserve it/It’s a warm embrace when you don’t feel like you’re worth it/That’s God for ‘I’m with you’/That’s God for ‘I miss you’/Don’t give up, there’s nothing He won’t do/To say ‘I love you’/That’s God”.
Gary’s wife Cassie co-wrote ‘Twenty Bucks Away’ with him. The song tells of a good deed: “Downtown where the homeless lonely pass/And always stop to ask/He says ‘Brother, I been way down on my luck’/I reach in and pull out twenty bucks/He was twenty bucks away from havin’ enough/Twenty bucks away from knowin’ at the time/He’d be fine/It didn’t take a lot to make him smile/One Andrew Jackson would keep him for a while/And just today/He was twenty bucks away”. The album ends with ‘The Rough Crowd’ featuring Tanya Tucker and John Rich, which is impressive! Here are some of the words: “I’ve cussed and I’ve raised hell and I’ve drank/I’ve stumbled but I know Someone was with me all the way.../The ramblers and the rogues and rakes/You’d think would push Him away/But He was always somewhere to be found/Thank God, Jesus runs with the rough crowd/I thank God, Jesus runs with the rough crowd”.
THE TRUTH runs 61 minutes and 31 seconds long. It was produced by Gary Chapman and Ray and Bobby Hamilton. This is faith based country music mixed with adult contemporary influences. Instruments employed include: accordion, steel guitars, mandolin, and mandocello. The majority of the songs are on the slower, introspective side of things. These are songs born out of life experience. Fans of The Lost Dogs and Steven Curtis Chapman should buy this album that is more oriented towards adults than youth. This is a good album to relax to. Gary’s voice has a distinct maturity to it. I’m rating THE TRUTH 87%. For more info visit: www.garychapmanmusic.com and www.merfmusicgroup.com.