CD Review: Pilgrim Song (Poet Voices)

Rating: 4 stars (of 5)

Average Song Rating: 4 stars (of 5)

Song List: Pilgrim Song; O Happy Day; This Little Light of Mine; Be Still and Know; Sweeter as the Days Go By; Gotta Go Back; If it Wasn’t For Your Love; Gonna Walk; A Bridge You Cannot Burn; Heaven’s Jubilee.

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Poet Voices recorded Pilgrim Song in 1999, at the peak of their popularity, three years before their retirement. This project’s lineup was tenor Dale Brock, lead Phil Cross, baritone Donny Henderson, and bass Tim Duncan. Though the CD is out of print, it was recently digitally re-issued by Crossroads.

Since there is no group photo on the cover, and there was a change at the bass spot (David Jordan leaving and Tim Duncan coming on board) , there was some question over Jordan or Duncan was the bass singer on this project. It’s unmistakably Duncan’s voice on “Sweeter as the Days go By,” but a friend more familiar with David Jordan’s voice thought it sounded like him on “Oh Happy Day.” I emailed Phil Cross asking which bass sang on this project, and he replied that it was Tim Duncan.

The project is a mixture of new and classic songs. Of the new songs, probably the best is the title track, “Pilgrim Songs,” with “Be Still and Know” (not the hymn) not too far behind. Another memorable track, though not entirely for musical reasons, is “A Bridge You Cannot Burn.” It starts with a clip from “Jesus Built a Bridge,” the song that put Poet Voices on the map in Southern Gospel. The lyrics focus on the doctrine of eternal security, a controversial enough doctrine that most Southern Gospel songs avoid anything more than a passing reference.

The most memorable rendition of a classic song on the project is the acapella rendition of “Oh Happy Day.” The arrangement, turning the song into a quartet song, is one I have only heard recorded by Poet Voices and, several decades earlier, by the Florida Boys. I am not certain whether the Florida Boys came up with the arrangement or whether it predates them. (Do any of you know?)

“Sweeter as the Days Go By,” featuring Tim Duncan, is also particularly nicely done.

This project stands up well to the test of time and is still quite enjoyable today.