CD Review “Unashamed” by Brian Free & Assurance

Brian Free & Assurance are undoubtedly the kings of the progressive movement in Southern Gospel Music. They have distinguished themselves not only in their sonic production, but also in their selection of material. Brian Free knows what he’s doing when it comes to selecting material. BFA have recorded songs with a message that will encourage & inspire their audience, but also challenge them as well.  Since 2007, Ricky Free has produced all of the groups recordings and the resulting projects (Real Faith, Worth It, Never Walk Alone, Nothing But Love) have been some of the finest music BFA has ever produced. Some may say it would be impossible for a group to continuously release recordings where each is better than their previous effort, but BFA does just that. Unashamed is notable as this is the debut recording for new baritone, Mike Rogers (who replaced long time baritone Derrick Selph last year), whom had previously sang lead with the Dixie Melody Boys. Not only is Rogers is an excellent fit for the groups blend, but he enhances it with his great range. 

The recording kicks off with a fantastic song “God Of Possibilities“, featuring lead singer Bill Shivers. Though he is not the winner of any major fan awards,  there is no doubt in my mind that Bill is the best lead singer in Gospel Music. His consistency over the years, vocal range, and sheer power is what makes him stand out. The second cut is the title cut, “Unashamed“, featuring Brian Free. The first verse paints the picture of the early Christian martyrs who died for their faith, and the chorus makes the proclamation,

“I will share the Gospel and I will live the truth,

all I say and do will glorify his name.

Even though it costs me everything, it’s a price I’ll gladly pay.

For the cause of Christ, I’ll live my life unashamed.”

The third cut is the first Mike Rogers feature, a great song written by Ronnie Hinson and Ricky Free, “Tell It Like It Was“. This is a kickin’ song, that gets straight to the point and fits in with the concept of being Unashamed in our faith. Rogers does a fantastic job on the verses, one of my favorite lines from this song captures the message in a nutshell “John may have baptized Jesus but he isn’t watered down“. The fourth cut is the first radio single, “Say Amen” which features Shivers. If you don’t want to stand up and do what this song says after hearing, you need to hit the repeat button. I believe this going to be a signature song for Bill Shivers. It’s one of the best songs I have ever heard Bill sing, and he puts his all into it. Expect to hear this song in heavy rotation on your Gospel radio station. The fifth song on the project is a  powerful ballad featuring Brian, “He Still Saves“. I had heard this song previously from Union Street, but BFA have put their own stamp on this one. No one can sing the power ballads quite like Brian Free, and the group blend is absolutely awesome on this one. This is by far one of my favorite songs On this recording.

The second half of the recording starts with another Mike Rogers feature, “Evidence In You“. This is one of the most unique songs on this project musically speaking, it doesn’t really fit in a box stylistically. The opening guitar intro is different than anything I have ever heard in Southern Gospel, but this song is killer. The chorus is one of the best pieces of songwriting you will hear in Gospel Music,

I am the face of God’s forgiveness, I am the evidence of grace.

I am the proof of just how much he loves and how far he’ll go to save.

If he saw something worth redeeming in the mess that I had made,

then I believe theres nothing he won’t do to see the evidence in you“.

Next up is the first feature from bass vocalist Jeremy Lile, “A Little Bit of Me And You“. Lile continues to prove that he is one of the smoothest bass singers in Gospel Music today. The song is a great lyric that reminds the believer that anything good has to be ” a whole lot of God and a little bit of me and you.” Rogers is also featured on another cut, a powerful ballad entitled “One“. This song is a monster ballad, and Rogers absolutely knocks it out of the park with a very soulful, yet powerful vocal on the verses. You will find yourself listening to this one, alot. Next up is another great song, “Where There’s A Will, He Has A Way“. This is a very interesting cut. Brian stated that when he heard the song, he thought it sounded a lot like something Lauren Talley would sing. So he actually pitched the song to her, and she recorded the song with the guys. Brian does the first verse and Lauren does the second and is featured on the rest of the song. This is the first time that a guest artist has ever been featured on a BFA recording, and its a great fit.

The recording comes to a close with a great song, “Before The After” featuring bass singer Lile on the first verse and lead singer Shivers on the second. Once again its another song that musically is out of the box, but absolutely BFA.

When it comes to the science of making great albums, Brian Free & Assurance have got it down. Ricky Free works hand in hand with his father, not just in finding the right material (Ricky co-wrote half the project) but also in getting the right. Brian Free & Assurance are leading Southern Gospel Music in the direction it should go. Unashamed is pushes the boundaries musically (with songs like Evidence In You & Before The After) but still delivers the high quality lyrical content & vocals that we have come to expect from them. I believe the groups blend is better than ever, and Unashamed is their best project to date.

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