As evidenced by my frequent posts about them, I am a big Indelible Grace fan. Indelible Grace (IG) is a community of musicians based in Nashville who strives to “help the church recover the tradition of putting old hymns to new music for each generation, and to enrich our worship with a huge view of God and His indelible grace.”
IG recently released their sixth album, By Thy Mercy. Each successive album shows more musical and lyrical growth, and this album is no different, as it is a completely different album from their previous efforts in a number of ways. First, By Thy Mercy is IG’s first intentionally all-acoustic album, which allows the musicians to focus even more on the great old hymn lyrics.
Acoustic music, in my opinion, is less forgiving and necessitates more intricacy, and as such needs to be executed more precisely. The musicians succeed in producing a polished (but not too polished), rich sound that exhibits tight musicianship and solid songwriting. Highlights in this regard include Jason Feller’s “Jesus Lord We Look To Thee” and Matthew Smith’s title track.
IG goes in some new directions lyrically as well. On their previous five albums, they would stick to old hymn texts. But with this effort, they include two non-hymns: Chelsey Scott’s “A Prayer for the Broken Hearted” and Matthew Perryman Jones’ “Rock of Ages When the Day Seems Long.” Scott’s song is an adaptation from an old Puritan prayer from the Valley of Vision, which makes for excellent lyrics matched with perfect accompanying music. Jones’ song is a new text written by Sandra McCracken in the style of old hymns (included on her Builder and the Architect; music by Kevin Twit). Jones is consistently my favorite IG artist, and his style is a perfect fit for this song.
The last new concept on this album that I noticed is the inclusion of horns. On a couple of the songs (A Prayer for the Broken Hearted, Hallelujah Praise Jehovah), there is a subtle but powerful inclusion of brass, which I strongly approve of.
It’s also encouraging to see another Psalm text included, something that has been missing since Matthew Perryman Jones’ “Psalm 73” on IG’s second album. “Hallelujah Praise Jehovah” is an excellent reworking of Psalm 148. Here’s to hoping future IG albums include more Psalms!
My favorite song so far is “A Prayer for the Broken Hearted.” One of the main reasons is the powerful Puritan prayer, which I’ll probably post sometime in the near future. But the song is masterfully written and performed, which surprises me because I’ve never been a huge fan of Chelsey Scott’s style. But she shines on this song, and it’s been on repeat several times already.
A couple more passing observations: “Salvation to the Lamb” doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the album, as its music is reminiscent of IG’s first album, but not coherent with the sixth. The two “bonus tracks” are remixes of two older IG hymns: “Arise My Soul Arise” and “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.” While I enjoy these songs, and can understand why they may have included them (to stimulate interest in older IG albums/hymns?), I don’t think they will excite old Indelible Grace followers very much.
In conclusion, I love By Thy Mercy, and recommend it to all old or new Indelible Grace fans. It includes all the familiar IG artists (Jones, Matthew Smith, Andrew Osenga, Sandra McCracken, etc.) while moving the group to a richer sound. They lyrics of each song form a coherent whole of sincere prayer and God’s gracious replies. I’d love it if they continued down the acoustic path.