Wayne Watson was born on October 5, 1954 in Wisner, Louisiana. His debut non-independent album was 1980’s WORKIN’ IN THE FINAL HOUR (Milk and Honey). He has won 12 Dove Awards and has had twenty-three #1 singles including: ‘When God’s People Pray’, Watercolour Ponies’, ‘Home Free’, and ‘Another Time, Another Place’ (a duet with Sandi Patty). In 1993 he released A BEAUTIFUL PLACE (DaySpring) which was nominated for a Grammy for ‘Best Pop Gospel Album’. The album was produced by Greg Nelson and Wayne, with Wayne writing nine of the ten songs himself.
Backing vocalists on the title track, ‘A Beautiful Place’, are: Lisa Glasgow, Bonnie Keen, and Chris Willis. It is an adult contemporary ballad of encouragement: “There’s a better view up around the bend/Where this puzzle makes some sense after all/Mistakes and misfortunes will come and go/But to try and to fail is no disgrace/Sometimes a rough and a rocky road/Can take you to a beautiful place”. Robbie Buchanan plays the B-3 organ on the great pop song ‘Walk in the Dark’. It includes this chorus of great spiritual maturity: “I’d rather walk in the dark with Jesus/Than to walk in the light on my own/I’d rather go through the valley of the shadow with Him/Than to dance on the mountains alone/I’d rather follow wherever He leads me/Than to go where none before me have gone/I’d rather walk in the dark with Jesus/Than to walk in the light on my own”.
Gary and Lisa Driskell wrote the mellow ‘Hard Times’. These lyrics from it are very relatable: “You say you wish that you could get back to the good times/Back when life and love and plans fell into place/Before the floods came/Before the dam started breakin’/Back when the waves kept their distance from your faith”. The next song is ‘Say what you Say’. Of it, Wayne writes: “I’ve always been concerned and a little disappointed at my judgmental and less than compassionate view of the lost souls that occupy the earth. I’m praying for me and for you, softer hearts”. Musically, the song has a mainstream, horn-infused pop/rock feel to it, but these words are directed at believers: “Sometimes us brothers and sisters are slow to the rescue, but run to condemn/Hard-hearted tongues that can blister/Salvation for me, but judgment for them/Right now I’m prayin’ for a softer heart and spiritual eyes for my sight”.
‘A Season in Your Path’ is a sentimental easy listening song with a flugelhorn solo by Mike Haynes. It is about friendships: “Heard that friends are friends forever/But we don’t talk much anymore/I guess that I’ve gone my way and I guess that you’ve gone yours.../Sometimes I think about you/Some old memories make me cry/Remembering the good times makes me laugh/But all in all I’m richer for the happy and the sad/And thankful for a season in your path”. ‘A Place for You’ begins by talking about earthly adoption, but quickly turns its focus to spiritual adoption: “Every child in God’s family/Souls orphaned at birth/Knows a hunger, a thirst to be wanted/But every son, every daughter/Whether pauper or king/Can celebrate heaven’s welcoming arms”.
Background vocalists on ‘God in a Box’ are: Donna McElroy, Vicki Hampton, and Chris Willis. It is a fun, peppy pop number that takes issue with arrogant Christians: “Down on the corner they’ve got it all figured out/Little room for mystery, little room for doubt/Got no time for questions/Everything is black and white/A little further down the highway they’re studyin’ the Word/’If you ain’t heard our version, Brother you ain’t really heard...’/God ain’t gonna stay in the little box we put Him in”. Wayne wrote the light adult pop song ‘More of You’ for his then wife, Lynn: “And all she really needs from me is more of You/That’s all she really needs from me/I know it is/I know it’s true/Yeah, more understanding, more tenderness/A love that goes beyond my humanness/That’s all she really needs from me/Is more of You/More of You”.
David Hamilton plays piano and the Nashville String Machine performs on ‘The Way that I Miss You’. It finds God speaking to humanity: “I created you to honor and to glorify My Name/Now your world is filled with distraction/Wins and losses, serious games/So the fellowship will suffer/For a season, for a time/In the end our love for each other/Will survive and be refined”. Wayne wrote the closing song ‘Say it all Again’ in the Spring of 1993 after seeing the Passion Play at church: “To this very day/Through the passing years/Under piles and piles of hidden memory/What is really true is really very clear/The spotless Lamb and the cruel tree/An empty grave, the mystery/And the forgiveness offered to me”.
A BEAUTIFUL PLACE is a gem of a CCM album, even after all these years. Wayne Watson’s vocal delivery is spot on. Stylistically the album is mostly adult contemporary and spirited pop music, but elements of the easy listening genre also appear. This album will encourage those going through spiritual valleys by speaking of God’s love and patience towards us. In addition, the album explores human relationships (friendship, romance, and adoption). This is a flawless, well-rounded project! I’m rating it 100% and recommending it to fans of Mark Schultz, Kenny Marks, and Rick Cua. For more info visit: www.waynewatson.com.