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It's a new season for Jimmy Needham. The nearly decade long career and six record releases of the 28 year old Texas native have put him on the map as much more than a soulful crooner. Needham has built a reputation for himself as a thinker, a challenger and a wordsmith. After his release of Clear the Stage (2012) Needham parted ways with long time label, Inpop Records, and set out on his own to brave the waters of an independent record release. Now an indie with big vision for the future, years of experience under his belt and a loyal fan base to boot, Needham is excited to debut his new album, The Hymns Sessions – Vol. 1.
As far as new seasons go, this will be Needham's first release to be completely self-produced, a long time dream of the industry almost-veteran. "Truth be told," says Needham, "The Hymns Sessions was not originally meant for the public at all." He explains, "I produced this album as a 'thank you' to my Kickstarter supporters (kickstarter.com is an online project fundraiser). We had a shoe-string budget and a short amount of time to finish it. I was so encouraged when I followed up with everyone later that year. They couldn't stop talking about how much they were enjoying these ten hymns I sent them! The idea to take these songs public seemed like a good next move."
Fans and critics have always agreed there's something special about what Jimmy Needham says in his songs. It's no wonder, then, he chose to do business with the rich lyrical tradition of the ancient hymns for his first specialty project. "The poetic clarity these writers had highlighted not only their theological prowess but their passion for making great art. I'm very excited to be exposing more folks my age to something so timeless."
The trick, it seemed, was how to contribute in a genre that has no shortage of voices and spins. Thankfully, The Hymns Sessions is anything but another installment in an over-saturated market. Needham pushed musical boundaries and traditional thinking to give his listeners something fresh. True to form, his latest installment displays a wide range of styles, while maintaining that distinctive soulful edge fans have come to love.
Epitomizing the diversity of the album is Needham's hip-hop infused rendition of "How Great Thou Art". Long-time friend and fellow artist Trip Lee made an appearance on the track, rapping his own interpretation of the song's first two stanzas. Needham shares, "I had Trip in mind for this project since before we started. Our chemistry has always been so good in the studio. When you find another artist who connects with your musical vision that well, you stick with them. Trip, as always, did a tremendous job."
Ever the songwriter, Needham also tried his hand at two originals, written in the style of the old spirituals. Die-hard fans will recognize one, "The Gospel", from his first release, Speak, which Needham reworked and rewrote for the new album.
Other notable tracks include the percussion-laden sing-a-long "Rock of Ages",
Needham's own "It Is Finished" (listen for his wife Kelly on violin) and "Joyful Joyful", a delightful homage to the Motown era soul.
As one might expect from the recently ordained singer/songwriter, the message of The Hymns Sessions is of central importance to him. "With every record I release", Needham states, "my goal is to wet people's appetite for the God of the gospel. I think the answer to all of our deepest questions can be found at the foot of the cross of Jesus so my art is always an attempt to take people by the hand to that place."
Eclectic, quirky and raw, The Hymns Sessions – Vol. 1 proves to be a decidedly new take on "the old old story".