CD Review: Inspired (Justin Terry)
Tenors, lead singers, and baritones record solo projects. Bass singers rarely record solo projects. When they do, those solo projects are often more intriguing than anything else. It can be fascinating to hear a singer whose strength is rattling subwoofers attempt the broader range a solo album demands. The lowest bass singers sometimes don’t have a natural mid and upper range—while those who do, baritones (under a classical definition) who can sing a bass part, sometimes avoid the higher notes for another reason. They either don’t want to admit how high their bass is, or in the upper registers, it has so much of a baritone’s voice quality that it wouldn’t even be recognized as a bass voice.
Justin Terry’s vocal work will already be familiar to many readers of this website from the years he has spent with Cross 4 Crowns. Their 2008 CD Turning Point received a 5-star rating when we reviewed it in 2008—completely unprecedented for a national debut project. The group’s 2010 follow-up received an also-solid four-star rating.
But Terry’s debut solo CD, Inspired, proves that he is one of the rare bass singers who can carry a solo album. He achieves the feat of maintaining a consistent tone from the top to the bottom of his range. Even when he is at the upper limits of his range—somewhere in the vicinity of middle C, several notes lower than a baritone’s high end—he still sounds like a bass singer. His voice, except for its lowest registers, has some country twang. The instrumentation brings this out; in fact, the voice and the album suggest comparisons to Josh Turner, of “Long Black Train” fame (or infamy)—albeit with an extra octave or so lower end!
What makes this more impressive is that Terry’s bass vocals are solidly in the school of Tim Riley, Jeff Chapman, Aaron McCune, and Glen Dustin. (He can sound uncannily like Jeff Chapman.) This makes his versatility in his upper registers all the more remarkable; bass singers with this voice type and technique are often the ones who have the greatest struggles delivering pleasant, smooth solos.
Many if not all of the songs on Inspired have been previously recorded, but Terry largely avoids the songs which seem to end up on every bass singer’s table project. Yes, there is the classic bass solo “When He Reached Down His Hand for Me<” and two or three familiar hymns. But he also revisits “Knowing What I Know About Heaven,” the best track from Guy Penrod’s solo debut Breathe Deep. In fact, some fans will undoubtedly rank Terry’s rendition as stronger.
When a bass singer does a solo project, it’s often something quick and simple to sell as a table project. This project shows creativity and attention to detail in song selection and arrangements. It’s one of those rare bass solo projects strong and diverse enough to suggest that the singer could actually stage an interesting solo concert and sustain a solo career. In fact, it is the strongest bass solo project reviewed on this website since Christian Davis’ 2006 release Make it Real. Long-time readers know how high of a compliment that is.
Song Selection Creativity Meter: 64% In place of radio single picks and an album rating, table projects featured in a 3:1 review are measured by a different metric—what percent of the songs on the album are pulled from outside of the 200 Most Frequently Recorded Southern Gospel songs. (But for this one, we’ll also give an album rating as a bonus!)
Album Rating: 4 stars.
Credits: Produced by Justin Terry, Zack Knudsen, and Andy Stringfield. Background vocals by Davis McCammon, Arthur Rice, and Andy Stringfield. Review copy provided.
Song List: There is a Fountain; Two Winning Hands; He Has Taken His Children Home; Love Song; I’ve Never Been this Homesick Before; Knowing What I Know About Heaven; I Must Tell Jesus; I Go to the Rock; When He Reached down His Hand for Me; God’s Gonna do the Same for me and You; In the Garden.