There are no two ways about it: The Mark Trammell Quartet’s brand-new release Your Walk Talks is a masterpiece.
A great recording starts with great songs. Mark Trammell has proven he knows how to find good songs; it is not a coincidence that his years with the Cathedrals and Gold City were years in which they found and recorded many of our genre’s all-time greatest songs. Just take the Cathedrals: Trammell ran their publishing company during his years in Stow, Ohio, and for part of his time with the group, screened songs to present the best finalists to the group.
This is only the Mark Trammell Quartet’s second recording of new songs since becoming a quartet; their previous one, Testimony, came out over three years ago, in 2010. But Your Walk Talks is worth the wait. Suppose that they had released one recording a year since 2010, and then pulled together all the strongest songs onto one compilation CD. That’s how strong the song selection is here.
“Don’t Stop Running,” written by and featuring Nick Trammell, is a perfect energetic album opener, setting the tone for the rest of the album.
“God’s Been Faithful” (Dianne Wilkinson, Scott Inman) is one of those simple message songs that are, all too often, easy to skip over when skipping through the album looking for the next hit song. But Mark Trammell’s showstopping vocal solo is probably his strongest vocal performance on the CD.
“When The King Comes To Claim His Throne” (Dianne Wilkinson) is a song about Christ’s millenial reign featuring new tenor Dustin Black carrying the melody in the convention-style choruses. On an album filled with strong songs, it’s one of the strongest.
“Thanks to Calvary” (Bill and Gloria Gaither) is a song that seemingly every group in the industry has recorded, but Pat Barker’s warm, confident solo makes the song worth standing shoulder to shoulder with the new songs.
The next song, “I’ll Go Over Jordan Someday,” is also a cover, but unlike “Thanks to Calvary,” it’s an old Stamps-Baxter song that has been almost completely forgotten since the Happy Goodmans’ rarely-discussed 1974 rendition.
Your Walk Talks isn’t exactly ballad-heavy. “Man of Sorrows,” a powerful Mark Trammell feature written by Dianne Wilkinson and Rebecca Peck, is an orchestrated anthem. The strings are there, and nicely done—incidentally, by a relatively new face on the scene, Luke Gambill of mystringsection.com. But the song’s every bit as much a hymn as it is a Southern Gospel ballad; it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine a pipe organ in place of the strings.
“Your Walk Talks” (written by Rodney Griffin and Babbie Mason) has simple message put in a delightfully fun way: “Your walk talks / and your talk talks / but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.” Bass singer Pat Barker brings the energy the song needs.
“To Know He Knows Me” (Nick Trammell, Rodney Griffin) is a tongue-twister in the great tradition of a song like “Can He, Could He, Would He.” As the chorus says: “To know He knows me like He knows me and to know that He still loves me / Lets me know that it’s a love that is real / The fact He gave me what He gave me when I asked if He would save me / Tells me He will still a promise fulfill / To know that He did when He didn’t have to do what He did / Shows the heart of His compassion and grace / And since He knows me like He knows me yet He saved me like He saved me / Lets me know His love’s a love that’s here to say.”
“I’ll Take it To The Grave” is co-written by Dianne Wilkinson and Rebecca Peck. After nearly four decades writing many of this genre’s greatest songs, Dianne Wilkinson is a songwriting legend in our genre for good reason. Yet this song is one of the five best songs she has ever written—and the single best fast song she has ever written.
We get to the final song on the project, “I Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way” (Dianne Wilkinson), before we have a full-scale feature for new tenor Dustin Black. It’s a reflective song with a deeply doctrinal message; how often do you hear a lyric that begins with “The mirror of God’s Holy Word revealed my lost condition”? The musical setting is the old-school bluesy Gospel style innovated by the Statesmen.
Your Walk Talks is easily the best recording of 2014, so far. But that statement’s a little too easy to make, since it is also the first major-artist recording of the year. So let’s go a little farther: It is one of the three strongest releases so far this decade.
Average song rating: 4.8 stars. Overall album rating: 5 stars.