Pay no attention to the guitar upon the cover. At first glance I thought this album would be a taste of alternative country with perhaps a dash of blues, but I was dead wrong. Although you see a guitar, it only makes fleeting appearances in a handful of songs, it’s place being usurped by the piano, Hacker’s main instrument. And instead of alt-country, the listener is treated to 12 easy-listening songs in the contemporary Christian style, three of which are originals by the performer.
Hacker chose to make his recording debut, So Until Then, at Monastic Chambers. This wise choice availed him of the talents of Jon Gillespie who helped flesh out the songs somewhat, although with playing as full and proficient as Hacker’s, not much was needed. With the exception of the Hacker original “Life With You,” which uses an electronic piano sound, every song on the album is heavy on the piano and vocals. More often than not a soothing string keyboard sound is laid over the top, and unobtrusive bass rounds out the low end. Mark Peckinpaugh contributes discreet drums to about half the songs, and Charity Shenkel provides backing vocals here and there, plus a duet on the original opening track, “It Was He.” Hacker is as adept vocally as he is on the piano, delivering impassioned performances and often providing his own vocal harmony. These elements combine to become a very consistent album.
In addition to the three original songs, which are written so well that they blend seamlessly with those written by “professionals,” there are a smattering of popular praise choruses (“Praise His Name,” “Amazing Love” and “Here I Am to Worship” among them). plus the classic country-revival song “It Is No Secret” The title track was written in part by Sara Evans, one of Christian music’s most earnest and promising writers, and Hacker manages to deliver all the passion present in the original.
Although more original songs would have been nice, So Until Then is a fully realized first album full of great performances. If you can’t wait for Hacker to play at your church to pick up a copy, you can surely find one at Anchor Room or Jericho Music and More.