The Ubiquity of Bridges

About a month ago, we were discussing whether every Southern Gospel song needs a bridge to get cut. Just how ubiquitous are bridges in current Southern Gospel songwriting?

Let’s examine the most recent front-line (non-table) release by five of Southern Gospel’s most popular artists.

  • Talley Trio, Life Goes On. Bridges were on six of ten songs (Winds of This World, Calvary and Amazing Grace, I Will Sing of My Redeemer, My Hope is In the Lord, Hallelujah Praise the Lamb, Life Goes On). One borrowed an earlier song (I Will Sing of My Redeemer / Redeemed.)
  • Perrys, Almost Morning. Bridges were on three of ten songs (If You Knew Him, Prior to a Prayer, You Cannot Improve on the Truth). One borrowed an earlier song (If You Knew Him / He Lives).
  • Gaither Vocal Band, Lovin’ Life. Bridges were on four of thirteen songs (I’m Forgiven, There’s Always a Place at the Table, I’m Lovin’ Life, When I Cry). One borrowed from an earlier song (There is Always a Place at the Table / Come Home).
  • Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, Dream On. Bridges were on seven of fifteen songs (Right Place Right Time, Never Give Up, No Unknown Soldiers, Sundays are Made for Times like These, Are You Enjoying the Show, Out of Bondage, We Need Each Other). One was a spoken word narration (Are You Enjoying the Show). One borrowed an earlier song (Out of Bondage / I’m Free).
  • Collingsworth Family, The Answer. Bridges were on four of fourteen songs (I Shall Not Be Moved, Fear Not Tomorrow, Within the Reach of a Prayer, More than Anything). Two borrowed earlier songs (I Shall Not Be Moved / I Shall Not Be Moved, Fear Not Tomorrow / I Know Who Holds Tomorrow).

This comes out to twenty-four of sixty-two or 38.7%.

Each CD had one song pulling a bridge from a hymn; the Collingsworths’ had two. This averages at about one of every ten songs using a hymn bridge. Let’s look at this one differently: How many of the songs would have been as strong on their own merits? Actually, probably all would have been as strong or stronger.

The best hymn bridge pairing of the six would be in “Fear Not Tomorrow.” All too often, borrowed hymns just work on the emotional level, offering the emotional punch of a long-time favorite song on a related theme. But this one actually works on an intellectual level, too, as the lyric to “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” does what the lyric of a bridge is supposed to do: Complement, round out, and complete the thought.

Is the ratio of, roughly, four of every ten songs having a bridge, with one of every ten having a hymn bridge, about right, too much, or overkill?