It would be far too easy for Steven Curtis Chapman to rest on his laurels. After all, he’s one of the most heralded artists in Christian music environs, having accumulated no less than five Grammys, 58 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, 48 number one singles, ten gold albums, and sales of approximately eleven million albums in a career that now spans some three decades.
Happily then, Deeper Roots, Where the Bluegrass Grows opts to adopt no pretense whatsoever, choosing instead to tread carefully over familiar terrain without sacrificing the heartfelt enthusiasm and deep devotion that typically accompany his craft. Never mind the fact that various guests show up in cameo roles — Ricky Skaggs, Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts et. al. — Chapman drives the music by plying a deep sentimental bind and an unfettered enthusiasm that could lead some to suggest it’s far more befitting of a first album, than the latest of the 20 that he’s released so far. That’s evident at the outset, from the acapella opening of the title track, which then takes flight with an effusive ode to roots and reverence:
“Well I come from a place where the bluegrass grows
Where the rivers run and the music flows
And I carry it with me everywhere I go…”
That exuberance pervades several of the songs that follow — Dive, Victory in Jesus, and I’d Rather Have Jesus in particular — although it’s the devotional hymns, many of them of archival stature, that find Chapman clinging to Gospel designs. Indeed, bluegrass rambles and sanctified sounds have always made for snug bedfellows, and on age-old compositions such as I’ll Fly Away, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, and How Great Thou Art, Chapman’s religious propriety unabashedly shines through.
Still, it’s to Chapman’s credit that he’s unafraid to bend a few boundaries when it’s opportune to do so. ’Til the Blue and Cinderella emerge as the album’s two most sensational standouts, each a lovely ballad that tugs at the heartstrings while keeping the emotional commitment firmly at the fore. They’re well worthy of making their way into the mainstream, giving Chapman the secular success that’s so clearly his due. For the time being however, credit Deeper Roots, Where the Bluegrass Grows for further furrowing a field that finds Chapman claiming a special standing.