Bill Gaither was born in Alexandria, Indiana in 1936. He formed The Bill Gaither Trio with his brother Danny and sister Mary Ann in 1956 while attending Anderson College. Bill married Gloria Sickal in 1962. The couple has three children: Suzanne, Amy, and Benjamin. The Gaither’s first Homecoming Video released in 1991. The rest is history when it comes to Southern Gospel music. However, in 2005 Bill Gaither released a self-titled solo album through Spring House Productions. It was produced by Bill and Michael Sykes (currently of Goodman Revival). The orchestrations were arranged and conducted by Russell Mauldin. Keyboards, bass, drums, and guitars are also used on this wonderful album.
The album opens with one of three Stuart Hamblen compositions. He lived from 1908 to 1989 and was one of American radio’s first singing cowboys. ‘But For the Grace of God’ is a mellow song of deep gratitude: “The tramp on the street, homeless and weak/Could be I but for the grace of God/The steel of my soul would have weakened and bent/Had I travelled the highways he’s trod/O merciful Father, O wonderful God/Thy hands have spared me these things”. Next up is ‘I Wish’, one of five penned by Bill and wife Gloria. It is partly spoken, partly sung. It is the heartfelt song of a father and mother to their child: “I wish you some growing and I wish you some knowing that there’s always a place to begin/Honey, your mom and I would love to collect you and shield and protect ya/And save you from hurts if we could/Ah, but we must let you grow tall, to learn and to know all that God has in mind for your good/We never could own you for God, He only loaned you/To widen our world and our hearts”. ‘The Family of God’ is a very familiar, warm song of thankfulness: “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God/I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood/Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod/For I’m part of the family/The family of God”.
‘Tho’ Autumn’s Coming On’ is a sentimental ballad: “We sang lullabies to babies’ cries in the springtime/Oh, how the time seemed to fly/We had scarcely put the crib away when like magic/We looked up the aisle and beheld/A lovely bride/We waved goodbye as one by one they joined life’s parade/Then at a bugle call, he stood proud and tall/There went our baby”. ‘I Believe, Help Thou My Unbelief’ is the tender song of one desiring intimacy with God: “I walk into the unknown trusting all the while/I long so much to feel the warmth that others seem to know/But should I never feel a thing/I claim Him even so/I believe, help Thou my unbelief/I walk into the unknown trusting all the while”.
‘Day by Day’ is a song of praise featuring a nice accompanying female vocal: “Every day the Lord Himself is near me/With a special mercy for each hour/All my cares, He pain would bear, and cheer me/He whose Name is Counselor and Power/The protection of His child a treasure/Is a charge that on Himself He lay/As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure/This the pledge to me He made”. Perhaps the album’s best track is next. ‘We Have This Moment Today’ runs over nine minutes long and encourages us to appreciate the present: “We have this moment to hold in our hands and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand/Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come/But we have this moment today”. The song includes a long, mesmerizing narrative interlude by Gloria Gaither that is absolutely brilliant! I call it ‘When Did I Start to Love You?’
‘These Things Shall Pass’ begins with these words of encouragement: “These things shall pass and some great morning/Ah, we’ll look back and smile at heartaches we’ve known/So, don’t forget when shadows gather/The Lord our God is still the King upon His throne”. Gloria Gaither, Bill George, Billy Smiley, Gary McSpadden, and Gary Paxton wrote ‘You Might Forget the Singer (But You Won’t Forget the Song)’. It is a catchy soft country tune reflecting on music: “The song of love I’m singin’ you’ll remember/You won’t forget the rhythm of the free/The music’s sure to stick there in your memory/Even if you don’t remember me/Oh, you might forget the singer, but you won’t forget the song/Singers come and go and fade away/The melody of love remains and truth goes marchin’ on”.
‘Some Things I Must Tell the Children’ is again partly spoken, partly sung by Bill. The song talks of parents’ unconditional love for their daughters and sons: “Along the way did your heart hear us say that you don’t have to earn our love?/There’s not a thing you could do/To make us stop loving you/Just the joy that you brought/Ah, that’s enough/There isn’t a thing that the future might bring/That could take back the gift that you are/Cause you are a treasure/We never could measure/Just some things that I must tell the children”. ‘Make it Real’ is a Suzanne Jennings/Michael Sykes composition. It is the sincere song of a seeker: “I’ve seen a lot of crazy things done in Your Name/And I know the tricks behind the magic show/I’ve almost thrown the towel in a time or two/And walked away from everything I know/But I can’t fill this emptiness inside of me/Or calm the troubled waters of my mind/So if You’re really out there and You’re listening/Then prove to me that those who seek will find”.
‘The Longer I Serve Him’ was, once upon a time, a popular worship chorus penned by Bill: “The longer I serve Him/The sweeter He grows/The more that I love Him/More love He bestows/Each day is like Heaven/My heart overflows/The longer I serve Him/The sweeter He grows”. The album closes with another Jennings/Sykes composition ‘Something To Say’. It is a country ballad with a poetic feel: “Words are a mystery/We say them so freely/Some can bring heartache and some can bring healing/Sometimes we’re broken/Sometimes it’s demanding/Sometimes we just go through to find understanding/But you’ve never lived till the words become true/Till forgiveness and mercy mean something to you/And you’ve never cried till the tears come from faith/You’ve never lived till you have something to say”.
I thoroughly enjoy this solo album by Bill Gaither! It is quite personal in that it reveals a lot about his faith and his dedication to his family. Love and devotion through the good times and the bad times appear to be constants for this Christian music legend. I think it’s pretty cool that this is an easy listening album rather than a Southern Gospel one! Bill’s voice is in top form and the instrumentation is great. This album is reflective and well thought out. Fans of Tony Bennett and Barry Manilow should add this to their collection. I’m rating BILL GAITHER 100%. For more info visit: www.gaither.com.