The Guardians may be a new name to most Gospel Music fans, but all three members of this trio are longtime veterans of the industry. Dean Hickman (tenor), Neil Uhrig (baritone), and John Darin Rowsey (lead) have sang with groups such as The Golden Keys Quartet, The Sentries, and Karen Peck & New River. Rowsey is also a prolific songwriter, whose songs have been recorded by many of the genre’s top artists, and half the project are songs written by him. Lift Him Up is the group’s debut project on StowTown Records, produced by Wayne Haun & Rowsey.
The album kicks off with an acapella rendition of Larry Gatlin’s “Alleluia“, which is very well done. The pace picks up a bit with an old standard “Packin’ Up“, and the guys bring in “I’m Getting Ready To Leave This World“. Rowsey is featured on the verses and does a great job. Hickman is featured on a the project’s first ballad, “Another Life To Give“, which is one of my favorite songs on the project. The pace picks up again with “His Truth Marching On“, featuring Rowsey. The guys then do a big arrangement of “What A Day That Will Be“, that features Uhrig on the first verse and Rowsey & Hickman on the second, and the guys also using “Heaven Will Surely Be Worth It All & We Shall Behold Him”. Hickman is also featured on a great uptempo song, “Leaning“.
Rowsey sings another one of my favorite songs that he’s written, “Keeper of The Lost And Found“. I first heard this song several years ago when Ivan Parker cut it on his “Unity” project, but I really love The Guardians arrangement and John Darin’s interpretation of this song is fantastic. Don’t skip this song! Next up is another song written by Rowsey, “There Is A Love“, featuring Uhrig. It’s a fun song, with a great latin arrangement. “Hold On to the Power of the Cross” is a song written by and featuring Hickman. The guys sing another Rowsey song very well known to Gospel Music fans, “Woke Up This Morning“.
One of the most unique songs on this project is “Theme From A Summer Place“, a song written in 1959 that originally came to prominence as an instrumental recorded by Percy Faith, with The Letterman recording a vocal version in 1965. When I asked Rowsey why the group recorded this song, he replied that one of the guys wives had the song as a ringtone on their phone and somebody suggested that he should try and write some Christian lyrics to the song. The end result is featured here on the project, and the guys nailed the “Letterman style” on the vocals!
Next up is another great song, “Present In The Presence of the King“, written by Haun and Rowsey. This is a fantastic song and another one you definitely don’t want to skip. The project comes to a close with a song written by and featuring Hickman, Haun and Joel Lindsey, “Please Don’t Wait Forever“.
In comparison to the groups previous release, “Let My Heart Sing“(which was produced by the late Lari Goss), there is no let down with Lift Him Up. With a mix of driving uptempo songs, orchestrated ballads and great vocal arrangements, The Guardians have served up one of the best recordings of the year already. With Rowsey’s dynamic lead, Hickman’s fine tenor, and Uhrig’s solid baritone, they have one of the finest blends around. If you haven’t heard them already, this project would be a great introduction!
Rating 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Brian’s Favorites: Packin’ Up, Another Life To Life, His Truth Is Marching On, Keeper of The Lost and Found, Present In The Presence of the King
Review copy provided by StowTown Records.