Personnel: Fernando Ortega (vocals, piano); Dean Parks, Tad Wagner, Matt Slocum, Rich Nibbe, Steve Addabbo, Bob Somma, George Cocchini, Randy Mitchell, Jon Hughes, Greg Leisz (guitar); Stuart Duncan (violin); Cameron Stone (cello); Randy Crenshaw (recorder); John Andrew Schreiner (accordion, piano, keyboards, synthesizer, electronic percussion); Phil Madeira (accordion); Jimmy Johnson, Tim Chandler (bass); Don Heffington, David Raven (drums); Javier Solis (percussion); Cathy Schreiner, Rebekah Caggegi, Linda McCrary, Howard McCrary, Kristle Murden, The Laguna Canyon Crickets, Kelly Willard (background vocals).
Recorded at Sunset Sound, Hollywood, California & Dark Horse Recording, Franklin, Tennessee.
How appropriate is it that when this popular CCM vocalist is either praying to or praising God, he hits all the emotional hotspots, yet when he's telling folksy tales about only marginally interesting characters, the songs fall somewhat flat? He could easily have a potential worship standard on his hands with the joyous, country influenced up-tempo rocker "This Good Day," which simply but effectively sees the morning as a gift of the Creator. The simple piano-vocal piece "Pass Me Not" and dramatic, soaring "Beyond the Sky" have an amazing hymn-like quality to them as they explore all the doubts and faith inherent in the Christian life. "No One Else" comes across like a swinging pop Psalm, and a gentle reworking of the African-American plea "Give Me Jesus" is pure and heartfelt. On the other hand, pieces like "Old Girl" that don't reference God are forgettable folk tunes. There are hints here of a Rich Mullins-like writing and vocal style, but with slightly less imagination. Given time, though, Ortega could develop into one of CCM's brightest lights of the new millennium. ~ Jonathan Widran