This week’s column on forgotten musical gems turns up Apocryphal Hymns
For what amounts to a collection of devotional music, it’s as well to suspend all disbelief before dedicating some time to discovering this wayward gem. Your patience and perseverance will reap rich dividends because here is a rare document of true believers, all expressing their belief through joyous and deeply soulful means. It’s spiritual stuff with added indomitable street-drenched human spirit and a whole lotta less holy Joe. Which is good.
Strange new deviations from the gospel playbook abound. There’s a sense that any meaningful search for light must surely begin on the darker side of the street. Thus each song is sung from a very different hymn sheet. These are variations on a familiar sacred subject, but different perspectives and energies underpin the flow.
The distinguishing lines between flesh and spirit are wavering from the start. Reverend Otis G Johnson’s sparse hymn, Walking with Jesus, opens proceedings with a tender, slow jam. What’s all this? A strange but intoxicating alien altar call, it seems. I ain’t never walked with a Jesus like this before but I sure do like it.
The term “apocrypha” comes from the Greek for “hidden things”. Much of the gospel music you hear takes the high-singing and handclapping blustery route to decorating The Word, but there is a distinctly laid-back and non-canonical feel to this 2012 collection. There’s no preaching or instructions on where to find the elusive three steps to heaven.
Apocryphal Hymns feels like a very different kind of climb altogether.
This is the sound of sweet surrender. By the time we get to the haunting Get Involved, we are swept off our feet and far away. You won’t be down for long with this record. It’ll lift you up.