Big Tent Revival formed in 1991 and released their self-titled debut in 1995. OPEN ALL NITE (1996, ForeFront) was their second album out of seven if you include their Greatest Hits project in 2002. OPEN ALL NITE was produced by John Hampton and the late Dana Key, and executive produced by Patrick Scholes. On the album, Big Tent Revival is: Steve Wiggins (acoustic and rhythm guitars, lead vocals, background vocals), Randy Williams (lead guitars and background vocals), Rick Heil (bass guitar, background vocals), and Spence Smith (drums, percussion). In the liner notes, one finds these words: “It has been a difficult and blessed year. Once again we praise God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! He has made the lowest valleys into summits of victory”.
First up is ‘Mend Me’, a rock song that acknowledges the need for Divine intervention in one’s life: “All the places that I’ve been/Still I can’t escape this life of sin/What I want to do I don’t do/And what I do I don’t want to do/I am broken, mend me/Over backwards, bending/For the love You’re sending.../You made the universe/And You can mend me”. ‘Here With Me’ is a melodic song that extols God for His faithfulness: “You said You’d always love me and You would never leave/Sure as the sky above me/I believe (3X)/In mountains high and valleys low/Desert land and driving snow/Like a river to the sea/You are always here with me”.
‘Famine or Feast’ reminds us to always rely on Jesus, whatever our circumstances: “Things have happened lately, the car is in the shop/Riding on the cross-town, almost at the stop/Staring out the window into the night outside/I have to tell you honest now/I sat right there and cried/Famine or feast, I’m on my knees/Searching for the answers for things I can’t see/Times of jubilation waiting for release/Time we all pray to the Lord/Famine or feast”. ‘The Best Thing’ is a beautiful adult contemporary ballad of spiritual invitation: “One thing’s for certain, I have been taught/The key to heaven, it just can’t be bought/Cause the standard is perfection and we are all short of it/In came Jesus and He was above it/The best thing in life is definitely free/The best thing in life is good for you and me/Jesus on the cross paid the penalty/And offers back to us life eternally”.
‘Long Time Comin’’ is a bouncy pop song of testimony: “Looking back on my life, now it’s clear to me/How You led me to this place so dear to me/Even though it seemed all of the sudden/It’s been a long time comin’/You’ve brought me this far/Who’s to say You won’t carry me through the rest of my days?” The lyrics to the chorus of ‘Thing Called Jesus’ aren’t exactly creative: “This is more to me than just some story/This is more to me than just some songs that I sing/I lay it on the line time after time after time after time/They can’t stop this thing (3X)/Called Jesus”.
‘Personal Judgement Day’ is a great bluesy rock number about the eternal destiny of our souls: “The Bible talks about a book of names, souls rescued from the flame/So brother tell me, when it all is through/Do you know Jesus and does He know you?/Don’t have to listen to a word I say/Don’t have to bow your head and pray/But you’re only a breath away from your personal judgement day!” ‘Letting Go’ is a song of confession: “I am a man who hides his feelings/But I don’t think I can keep from revealing/All the things inside of me that are out of control/So, Lord I’m letting go”.
‘You Are’ addresses atheists: “They try and tell me/You don’t exist/They are mistaken/I must insist/Cause You brought me through the shadow of death.../You are in my day time, You are in my night/You are everything I need/My Lord and my delight”. The song has a cool underlying groove to it. ‘If Loving God Was A Crime’ was one of the best CCM songs to come out of the 1990’s. Witness these words: “If loving God was a crime/I’d be an outlaw/I would join the fight/They could not shut me down/I would stand tall for what I know is right/Would you stand with me for the world to see when all is on the line?/Would you be ashamed of Jesus’ Name if loving God was a crime?” Closing things off is a hidden track, ‘My Guitar’.
Steve Wiggins, who wrote all of the songs here, has a great voice for the adult Southern rock song on this project. The accordion and B-3 organ are nice added touches on this album. Prominent lyrical themes are: God’s love for and faithfulness to us, our personal level of dedication to Christ, and spiritual invitation. I had the privilege back in the day of seeing Big Tent Revival open for DeGarmo and Key, and later Dana Key when he was a solo artist. Fans of Tom Cochrane, Third Day, and Kenny Marks should acquire OPEN ALL NITE, which I’m rating 98%. Steve Wiggins is now Contemporary Worship Pastor at Bellevue Baptist in Tennessee. For more info visit: www.bellevue.org or look up the band members of Big Tent Revival on Facebook.