Monday, January 22, 2018


Bart Marshall Millard was born on December 1, 1972 in Greenville, Texas.  He is best known as the lead singer of MercyMe who put out their major label debut ALMOST THERE in 2001.  It included their now mega-hit 'I Can Only Imagine'.  Before she died Bart promised his grandmother he would record a hymns album.  The result was HYMNED NO. 1 (2005, Simple/INO Records).  It was produced by Brown Bannister and Bart Millard.  In the liner notes, Bart writes: "May every part of this project bless the heart of God".  Here are my thoughts on the album:

1. Starting things off is a jazzed up version of 'Just A Closer Walk With Thee'.  Tim Lauer plays accordion and four backing vocalists are used.  The lyrics are prayerful: "Just a closer walk with Thee/Grant it, Jesus, is my plea/Daily walking close to Thee/Let it be, dear Lord, let it be/I am weak, but You are strong/Jesus, keep me from all wrong/I'll be satisfied as long, oh/As I walk , let me walk close to Thee".

2. Bart and Barry Graul wrote the sentimental country song 'MawMaw's Song (In the Sweet By and By)'.  Sam Levine plays the tin whistle while Gordon Kennedy is down for banjo and guitar solo.  This is a sentimental country song: "Seven years old up on my knees/On the third row pew, trying to see/My grandmama sing 'In the Sweet By and By'/It wasn't the sweetest sounding thing/But there's something about when grandmama sang/That moved your feet and stirred something up inside/To see her grin from ear to ear/One thing for sure was very clear/This wasn't just a song it was her life".

3. A pleasant version of 'Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior' with Vince Gill on backing vocals follows.  "Pass me not, O gentle Savior/Hear my humble cry/While on others Thou art calling/Do not pass me by/Let me at Thy throne of mercy/Find a sweet relief/Kneeling there in deep contrition/Help my unbelief".

4. A rootsy version of Cleavant Derricks' 'Have a Little Talk with Jesus' is up next.  Becca Bramlett and Perry Coleman are on backing vocals.  These lyrics admit life isn't always easy: "Sometimes my path seems drear, without a ray of cheer/And then a cloud of doubt may hide the light of day/The mist of sin may rise and hide the starry skies/But just a little talk with Jesus clears the way".

5. Next is a bluesy version of Thomas A. Dorsey's 'Precious Lord, Take my Hand'.  It uses horns and a choir and finds Russ Taff on guest vocals.  The song calls on the Lord for help: "Precious Lord, take my hand/Lead me on, let me stand/I am tired, I am weak, I am worn/Through the storm, through the night/Lead me on to the light/Take my hand, precious Lord/Lead me home/When my way grows drear/Precious Lord, linger near".

6. 'Softly and Tenderly' is presented in an adult pop fashion.  It offers hope: "O for the wonderful love He has promised, now/Promised for you and for me/Though we have sinned/He has mercy and pardon/Pardon for you and for me".

7. 'Sweetest Name I Know' was penned by Luther B. Bridgers.  Here it is given the experimental treatment, with Dan Needham on drums.  This is not my favorite version ever of the song.  It does give testimony though: "All my life was wrecked by sin and strife/Discord filled my heart with pain/Jesus swept across these broken strings/And stirred these chords again".

8. For 'Power in the Blood', Shane Keister plays B3 and Paul Franklin plays dobro.  Anthony Evans Jr. and Nirva Dorsaint are on backing vocals.  It's all about true forgiveness: "Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?/There's power in the blood, power in the blood/Sin stains are lost in its life giving flow/There's wonderful power in the blood".

9. 'My Jesus I Love Thee/'Tis So Sweet' is a nice combination of two ballads about spiritual submission: "My Jesus I love Thee, I know Thou are mine/For Thee all the follies of sin I resign/My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou/If ever I love Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now/'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus/Just to take Him at His Word/Just to rest upon His promise/Just to know/'Thus saith the Lord'".  Derek Webb is a guest vocalist.

10. Last up is George Bennard`s classic `The Old Rugged Cross'.  This version is quiet and finds Andrea Zonn on fiddle and background vocals.  It begins with these traditional words: "On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross/The emblem of suffering and shame/And I love that old cross where the dearest and best/For a world of lost sinners was slain/So I'll cherish the old rugged cross/Till my trophies at last I lay down/I will cling to the old rugged cross/And exchange it some day for a crown".

On HYMNED NO. 1 Bart gives these hymns a contemporary sound while mostly keeping the original melodies. Bart's vocals are easy to listen to-he doesn't do vocal acrobatics here. There are a variety of eclectic musical styles here, but it is not a MercyMe record by any stretch.  This is an album you will want to play over and over again.  It will encourage you in and strengthen your walk with God.  I`m recommending it to fans of Clay Crosse and Michael English.  I rate this CD 90 percent.  For more info visit:,, or look them up on facebook.