The Watchmen Quartet’s official website states that they “began their ministry in 1968 as a group of friends who wanted to sing for a talent contest. The contest was being sponsored by Emmanuel Bible College in Kitchener, Ontario. They won the contest! And the bookings began”. The rest, as they say, is history. The group’s latest and 23rd recording is 2015’s STILL FAITHFUL. In the liner notes the group shares: “The FAITHFUL message of the CROSS continues to transform lives today...The Watchmen Quartet still counts it a great privilege to faithfully share that great message in song”. The Watchmen are: David Roth (sound tech), Doug Jones (lead), Tim Harden (tenor), Nick Succi (bass guitar), Roy Lewis (bass), David Jantzi (baritone), and Don McNiven (pianist).
The album opens with ‘Oh Say But I’m Glad’, a James P. and Mildred Sullivan composition. It is a short, cheery Southern Gospel song: “There is a song in my heart today/Something that I never had/Jesus has taken my sin away/Oh, say but I’m glad.../Wonderful, marvelous love He brings/Into a heart that is sad/In darkest trials my heart just sings/Oh, say but I’m glad”. ‘He the Pearly Gates Will Open’ is a country gospel song of testimony that makes good use of the harmonica: “Love divine, so great and wondrous/All my sins He then forgave/I will praise His Name forever/For His blood, His power to save/He the pearly gates will open/So that I may enter in/For He purchased my redemption/And forgave all my sin”. ‘Nothing But the Blood Still Saves the Lost’ is a strong ballad written by Chris Binion. Many older Christians will appreciate these lyrics: “The Church seems awfully different from when I was a child/The songs we sing, well, they’re not the same as they were before/Those hymnals we used long ago, it seems they’ve disappeared/Sometimes I find myself longing just to hear/’At the cross, at the cross/Where I first saw the Light and the burden of my heart rolled away’”.
‘Loving the Lamb’ reminds us that the devil is ultimately no match for Christ and us, His followers: “Through every storm Satan is trying to tell me it’s over/Why should I go on?/But the darker the storm, the more I see Jesus/And the stronger my love grows.../He failed to stop the birth of a baby/He would love to have stopped the death of I AM/He can’t hold back the coming of my King/He cannot keep me from loving the Lamb”. Babbie Mason and Rodney Griffin wrote ‘You Were Faithful Yesterday’. It has an old school country music vibe to it and testifies to God’s goodness to us, His children: “Since the day that I surrendered/Many years have come and gone/Joy and sadness I remember/Lord, You were faithful all along/You brought me through my lowest valley/You brought me cross the desert dry/You were my Friend when I was lonely/You whispered peace and made me smile/As I survey the joy and sorrow/I find Your love remains the same/So I will trust You for tomorrow/’Cause You were faithful yesterday”. ‘A Sinner Saved By Grace’ is a wonderful song of spiritual humility: “How could I boast of anything I’ve ever seen or done?/How could I dare to claim as mine/The victories God has won?/Where would I be had God not brought me gently to this place?/I’m here to say I’m nothing but a sinner saved by grace/I’m just a sinner saved by grace/When I stood condemned to death/He took my place!”
Gary McSpadden wrote ‘The Plan of Salvation’, a Southern Gospel ballad that recalls the solemn events of Good Friday: “One morning at daybreak a crowd slowly gathered/They were walking my Lord up old Calvary’s hill/So sad was the scene there, all the birds hushed their singing/Like a lamb he was humbled to His Father’s own will/When the hill was ascended/The nails were then driven in the hands that had given such mercy to me/And the blood from His side flowed like a river from Heaven/A river that washed and made my soul clean”. Mosie Lister’s classic ‘Feeling Fine’ is a peppy Southern Gospel song of positivity: “Well, I’m feeling mighty fine, I’ve got Heaven on my mind/Don’t you know I wanna go where the milk and honey flow?/There’s a light that always shines, down inside this heart of mine/I’ve got heaven on my mind, and now I’m feeling mighty fine!” R. L. Prather’s ‘Out of Bondage’ is next. It is a partly spoken, partly sung, upbeat Southern Gospel story song taken from the Old Testament: “Well, the Lord said ‘Son, put down that rod’/And when Moses did he cried to God, for it turned to a snake as wicked and evil as sin/Then he cried again with an awful wail/So the Lord said ‘Seize it by the tail’/When Moses did it turned to a rod again”.
‘The Jesus Medley’ clocks in at 8:29. It is comprised of parts of six songs and is nicely put together. It includes these Christ glorifying lyrics: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus/There’s just something about that Name/Master, Savior, Jesus/Like the fragrance after the rain/Jesus, Jesus, Jesus/Let all Heaven and earth proclaim/Kings and kingdoms will all pass away/But there’s something about that Name”. The album ends with Charlotte Elliott and William B. Bradbury’s ‘Just As I Am’. Here we have a terrific acappella version of it. It begins with these words of surrender: “Just as I am, without one plea/But that Thy blood was shed for me/And that Thou bidst me come to Thee/O Lamb of God, I come, I come!”
The group harmonies on STILL FAITHFUL are splendid! The instrumentation is also well executed. Instruments used include: electric guitar, steel guitar, dobro, classical guitar, fiddle, viola, mandolin, and acoustic guitar. As promised, lyrically the songs here point us to the cross. The listener must decide whether to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and follow Him, or to reject Him and His Truth, plain and simple. STILL FAITHFUL is a terrific Southern Gospel album that I would say mainly people over the age of 40 will enjoy. I’m rating this one 90%. For more info visit: www.watchmenquartet.ca.