by Charlton Wiggins
When the Statler Brothers’ Lew Dewitt had to step back from the group in 1983 due to health problems, it was Williamsburg, Virginia native Jimmy Fortune who stepped in to fill the vacancy left by Dewitt. Fortune filled that vacancy so well he remained with the group until the other members retired in 2003.
But he wasn’t done with his career and immediately continued on as a solo artist releasing seven albums between 2003 and 2017.
Now with the recent release of “God & Country,” his eighth solo effort, Fortune continues to build on his catalog of work. Previously Fortune had released religious themed songs however with “God & Country” he takes it a step further by combining popular hymns with classic American patriotic tunes.
What better way to start a patriotic album off than a medley of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and the Woody Guthrie staple “This Land Is Your Land”?
“Battle Hymn of the Republic” utilizes sparse instrumentation and instead focuses on Fortunes clear crisp vocals before segueing into “This Land Is Your Land” with a rousing tempo punctuated with fiddle and banjo - always an excellent combination.
The religious tunes are dispersed throughout the album with the beloved “The Old Rugged Cross” being the first of the more traditional gospel tunes which also includes the solemn and heartfelt “In The Garden,” “Because He Lives,” “Softly & Tenderly,” a very poignant “It Is Well With My Soul.”
One that holds a special place in Fortune’s heart - “It Is No Secret” is preceded by a spoken word explanation of why it holds that special place. “I Love You More” is a more contemporary religious tune that expresses the love God has for us, especially when we are at our lowest points in life.
But the title is “God & Country” and while “Country” can be representative of the genre it is more indicative of the patriotic tunes scattered throughout the album.
In addition to the aforementioned “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “This Land Is Your Land” Fortune includes a rendition of “Battle of New Orleans” with an opening riff that brings to mind Jerry Reed before transitioning into a very enjoyable foot-stomping tale that memorializes the famous battle of New Orleans from the War of 1812, which actually occurred after the war was won.
“Meet Me At Arlington” is a tearjerker story with modern relevance that tells the tale of a parent who has lost a son in war. In the same vein of current relativity is “More Than A Name On A Wall,” which reflects on the life of a son lost in battle and the parents’ memories of times past and how he is missed, especially on holidays.
In a day and time when it seems our nation has turned it’s back on God, “In God We Trust” defends those who seek to put God first and trust in Him to lead our nation and extols our citizenry to not forget our freedoms and He who gives them to us.
The final patriotic tune is a heart-felt rendition of “God Bless America” combined with “America the Beautiful” which features complimenting vocals from Sonya Isaacs.
Clearly with the patriotic tunes Jimmy Fortune has tapped into a genre of music missing from todays popular music landscape that has a need to be revived. Gospel tunes have a loyal following, and the ones included on this album will be much enjoyed even as they greatly compliment the patriotic songs.
I found this to be a wonderful album to listen to on Sunday mornings especially to help put me in the right frame of mind, as I get ready for worship.
I’m sure it will find a place in your day or week just as easily
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