Over the years I have had the pleasure of seeing The Proverbs in concert in the Frogmore, Tillsonburg, and Feversham, Ontario areas. The Proverbs are one of Canada’s best known gospel music artists, with a musical career that began in 1967 and continues to thrive today. They have been voted Canada’s top mixed gospel group more than a dozen times and have also shared billing with many of gospel music’s top U.S. Southern Gospel artists. SAY AMEN (2015) is their 23rd album! Current group members are: Dave Daw, his wife Kathy, and his sister Karyl Tymciw. They perform close to 100 concerts per year. Dave and Kathy’s youngest daughter Natasha, who has Down’s Syndrome, regularly joins the group onstage, while Karyl’s husband Paul runs sound. A theme verse for the group is 2 Corinthians 5:20 which begins: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us”.
The title track, ‘Say Amen’, starts things off. Jason Cox, Michael Farren, and Kenna Turner West wrote this easy listening ballad which finds Karyl on lead. It calls out for witnesses to God’s goodness: “If there’s anybody here who’s found Him faithful, anybody here who knows He’s able/Say ‘Amen’/If there’s anybody here who’s seen His power, anybody here brought through the fire/Say ‘Amen’/Anybody here found joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the storm, hope for tomorrow/And you’ve seen it time and time again/Just say ‘Amen’”. ‘Stand Up For Jesus’ is one of two songs written by Matthew Browder. On this upbeat Southern Gospel number Dave takes the lead. It encourages us to be bold when it comes to our Christian faith: “Stand up for Jesus if you have to stand alone/Be His disciples no matter the cost/Proclaim the blood that was shed on the cross/Stand up for Jesus if you have to stand alone/We need to be like old Stephen not ashamed to keep on preachin’ Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the grave”. J. Michael Wilson wrote ‘Going Home Forever’. The Proverbs took it to #1 on the U.S. based ‘Music To Radio Top 100’ chart in late June, topping artists such as Amber Nelon Thompson, Greater Vision, and The Bowling Family. This inspirational ballad contains these lyrics: “Soon I’ll hear the trumpet sound/I’ll pick up my robe and crown and leave behind the sorrows that we’ve shared/I’ll hear the Saviour say ‘Well done, you fought the fight, your race is run/Come on in and rest awhile, you’re at home forever”.
‘It’s Gotta Be God’ is a light rock number of testimony: “Sometimes I think of who I was, sometimes it’s hard to believe/So many ways that my life has been changed since the Father started workin’ in me/Now the more I trust, the more I grow and the more I live, the more I know/It’s gotta be God, it’s gotta be grace/Cause God still works in mysterious ways”. ‘I Still Glory in the Cross’ is a moving Southern Gospel ballad that reflects on the atonement: “I still glory in the cross, the cross of Calvary/For I would still be lost had it not been for that old rugged tree/Nothing I could do could ever pay redemption’s cost/But Jesus paid it for me and the cross still tells the story/That’s why I still glory in the cross”.
‘Big Mighty God’ is a peppy Southern Gospel song. It begins by reflecting on an Old Testament story: “The children of Israel standin’ at the Red Sea wondering how they got between the water and the enemy/Couldn’t move forward, couldn’t go back/God had ‘em where He wanted ‘em/Frozen in their tracks/And I’m guessin’ this was the conversation/’Lord, we’re in a mighty bad situation/We need a big mighty God in a mighty big way/A God with the power that the waters obey/You know that we are mighty small and we sure need You to save the day/We need a big mighty God in a mighty big way’”. ‘I Know Enough’ is a nice adult contemporary song of encouragement: “I’ve been on the other side of the mountain, seen the night give way to day/Delivered over and over when it seemed there was no way/I’ve been rescued by mercy , lifted by love/I may not know much, but I know enough”.
‘The Part Where You Come In’ is a terrific adult contemporary song reminding us that God will meet us wherever we are: “For some it’s at an old-time altar or in a hospital room one night/For some it’s the first time that we hear You/Or one last chance before we die/But You’re always waiting with forgiveness/No matter what we’ve done or been/You hear us cryin’ for Your mercy/That’s the part where You come in/And everything’s new/Everything’s changed”. David Staton wrote ‘You’re Never Too Far Away’. It is a song of spiritual invitation: “You’re never too far away that He can’t hear you when you pray/He knows all your fears, sees all your tears, feels all your pain/Just turn around and you will find/He’s standing beside you with His arms open wide/He knows where you are, you’re never too far away”.
‘Don’t Get Me Started’ is a toe-tapping song of gratitude: “When I begin to count my blessings/If you ask me I’ve got more than I can share/Oh, where do I jump in to tell you all about God’s goodness?/This could take awhile so we better be prepared/Don’t get me started on what the Lord has done for me/Don’t get me started on what it means to be set fee/Cause when I start I can’t stop singin’ about the joy the Lord keeps bringin’/So let me warn you, there’s somewhere you need to be/Don’t get me started on what the Lord has done for me”. Lee Black and Cliff Duren wrote ‘One’. The Proverbs reached #3 with it on the U.S. based ‘Music To Radio Top 100’ for the week ending August 16th. The opening words of the song will resonate with fundamentalist Christians: “We find ourselves living in uncertain times/Where there once was right and wrong it seems we’ve blurred the lines/We’re told there are no absolutes/So everyone is free to choose their own version of the truth/And the skeptics and scoffers, they laugh at my faith/But I’m holding to the Rock that will not change/One God, one King”.
‘Stepping Stones’ is a contagious country gospel song of spiritual victory: “I choose to use these stumblin’ blocks as steppin’ stones/I refuse to be the laughin’ stock/I’ve been knocked down, but not for long/The devil meant to set me up for my greatest fall/I choose to use these stumblin’ blocks as steppin’ stones”. Wendy Wills and Lyn Rowell wrote the album closer ‘I Pray’. Natasha Daw, who is an inspiration to many, sings lead on this intimate, tender ballad: “When I wake up in the morning I pray/When I get so busy, I pray.../In Jesus’ Name I pray/I pray cause He loves me/I pray cause He listens/Every moment of the day.../Because He’s my closest Friend I pray”.
SAY AMEN is a wonderful contemporary Southern Gospel album. The messages in these thirteen songs are truly life-giving. Listeners are encouraged to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and then to grow into spiritual maturity. The lead vocals and vocal harmonies here are spot on. A horn section arranged by Dave Barton is used extensively. For sure this is one of my favorite Proverbs albums out of the ones that I have heard! It is outstanding, as is the photography and graphic design accompanying the project. On the next album, I would like to see the group members write some of their own material. I’m rating SAY AMEN 95%. For more info visit: www.theproverbs.com and www.summitsound.com.