Hope Is Alive
Tom Frye

by Jason Hoffman

      Bryant, Indiana artist Tom Frye has logged thousands of hours on the stage here in Indiana, as well as in Nashville, Tennessee and across this fruited plain we call America. Hope Is Alive is his fifth solo album, and it shows the songwriting and performance maturity that can only be gained by years spent in the trenches.

      Frye’s sound is firmly acoustic with six- and 12-string guitars backed by traditional folk instruments such as mandolin, hammered dulcimer, ethnic percussion and dobro. Matched with Christian lyrics that offer insight into the human condition, it’s easy to see how the music of Rich Mullins has been a great influence. Although he never wears his influences plainly on his sleeve, the title track most explores the Mullins sound, rising like the sun at dawn with loads of atmosphere as he sings “I rise from my bed and my feet hit the floor / And the pain there reminds me of the cross that I bore” and the pithy “It doesn’t make sense / But it surely makes life,” slowly building in intensity, both majestic and expansive.

      Most of the songs are calm and contemplative, such as the pleasing “My Delight,” a bright worship song with light organ accents, or “Go With God,” where Emily Akins sings impassioned backing vocals of encouragement against a ringing tapestry of mandolin, accordion and lap dulcimer. “Show Me The Way” confesses “Sometimes You don’t make much sense to me / I’m doing what You say and I’m trying to believe / But I know You are the truth and it’s the truth that sets me free.”

      Two songs dip into the rock well. “Revival” dips in a toe to find a very Christian radio-friendly song of encouragement washed in B-3 organ, bright guitars, an open vocal delivery and bluesy guitar. “Edge of Grace,” with its buzzing organs and full drum kit backing, provides the perfect opportunity for Frye to give full vent to his rich voice, evoking memories of Hootie.

      Joining Frye are a few Nashville friends, including former Mullins bandmate Mitch McVicker who adds backing vocals to Frye’s rendition of the classic “Oh How I Love Jesus.” Guitar genius Phil Keaggy adds background vocals and a smattering of lead guitar licks on a number of tracks, including “Tears Like Rain,” a duet with Emily Akins packed with country vibes that gives both vocalists a chance to dig in with bluesy passion not seen elsewhere on the album. Keaggy’s acoustic guitar is also prominent on the excellent “Lifter Of My Head,” cascading finger-picked tones against the hollow whistle of an alto recorder, shakers and a pleasing, wispy melody. Hope Is Alive was recorded at Sound Shed in Bluffton. Frye is at the top of his game both with mature song and lyric writing as well as giving solid, expressive vocal performances throughout. For those yearning for deeper truth in their music, Hope Is Alive just might be the answer to your prayer.

      More information is available at www.tomfrye.net. He is a member musician of World Vision, so part of each purchase goes to help care for children around the world.

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