Two for the Road
By: Deborah Evans Price
For its new duets album, Bless the Broken Road (Curb), Selah took an unusually personal approach.
Change is rarely easy, but it can often yield wonderful results. One of the best examples is Selah’s new project Bless the Broken Road—The Duets Album which released last month. The CD features Selah founding members Todd Smith and Allan Hall along with newest member Amy Perry and a variety of duet partners, among them Cynthia Clawson, Jason and Adam Crabb, Plumb, BarlowGirl, Kim Hill, Nicole C. Mullen and Selah alum Melodie Crittenden.
Crittenden had joined the trio in early 2005 after the departure of Todd Smith’s sister (and founding member) Nicol Sponberg. After six months of Selah’s hectic schedule, Crittenden opted to exit the group to concentrate on starting a family. Smith and Hall supported her decision, and they all remain good friends.
Both guys admit after Crittenden left, they really prayed about whether the group should continue. Hall talked to his pastor and began questioning whether “this chapter might be over and it might be time to move on.”
“It was really scary,” adds Smith, “because music is what I always wanted to do. If I had a 9 to 5 job, I’d get fired because I’d forget to go to work or I’d be so late.”
Feeling God leading them to continue, Smith and Hall decided to record a duets album that would incorporate performances from some of their favorite singers. They also began auditioning for a new female member. That’s when they met Amy Perry, a vivacious California transplant who had taken up residence in Nashville.
“She just had the whole package,” says Smith. “She could sing great as a soloist. She could blend great. She could harmonize great. She was just a great learner, and you could just tell by her spirit and attitude that she’d be great to have in the group.”
Hall was equally impressed: “When she came in and sang, in my heart that was when God was saying, ‘Here she is, and this is it. You’re going to be fine.’ And it’s been amazing.”
Perry is happy to be part of the trio. “The guys have made it so easy and made it so there’s no pressure,” she says.
Perry does realize she has pretty big shoes to fill. “I know there are going to be people who like Nicol better, and that’s just how it’s going to be. That’s alright. You don’t have to love me as much as you love her—just be nice to me, and I’m all good,” she says with a big smile.
Perry joined Selah on the road last September, but, for those who haven’t seen a show lately, they’ll get their first taste of Perry’s voice on the new CD as she’s featured on “Gentle Healer” and “Be Thou Near to Me.”
One of the most talked about tracks on Duets is “Ain’t No Grave,” featuring Smith and Jason Crabb sharing lead vocals and Adam Crabb (of recently disbanded The Crabb Family) wailing on the harmonica. Before they went into the studio, Smith told Hall he was a little nervous. “Man, this is Jason Crabb! I’ve really got to have my ‘A’ game on. I have to be able to bring it,” he told Hall.
“We started getting in there and feeding off each other,” says Smith. “And we were looking at each other in different booths, and it was a blast. [Jason and Adam] are awesome!”
The enthusiasm is mutual. “I love that man’s voice,” Jason Crabb says of Todd. “His voice is amazing. When you hear it, you know who it is.”
Jason admits cutting a song that is so identified with Russ Taff was a scary thing. “It was such an honor to get to do that song,” says Jason, who is a big fan of the whole Duets project. “It’s really a unique, well-rounded record. It’s really different. I think no matter what style of music you love, you’ll find it on this record. Those records are hard to come by these days.”
One of the most memorable tracks for Allan is “Softly and Tenderly,” featuring Cynthia Clawson. He became a fan when he heard her singing at the opening of The Trip to Bountiful, a movie his parents had rented. He couldn’t find the soundtrack, so he taped the song on a cassette as it played from the TV speakers.
Later on in college, Allan found himself wrestling with his faith. “I thought I had to be perfect before God would give me any kind of attention. I was just struggling with legalism, and, finally, it came to a head in my dorm room one night. I kind of railed to the heavens and I said, ‘If serving You means feeling constant guilt, You can forget it—life is too short, too beautiful, too precious. I’m not going to spend my life feeling like 10,000 lbs. are crushing me to the floor because I can’t please You.’”
Soon after, he was back at his parents’ for Christmas break. Late one night, he found the tape he recorded years earlier. The label had worn off, and he didn’t know what it was as he put it in. “I fell to my face just in tears for about three hours that night,” he says. “It was that night when God showed me grace and taught me what He was really about, not about rules and those things. So Cynthia has always been just dear to me.”
Nichole Nordeman, Jill Phillips and Watermark’s Christy Nockels are also among the duet partners joining Selah on Bless the Broken Road—The Duets Album. “We centered in on artists we’d been touched by in our own lives,” says Allan. “We didn’t want to have the usual suspects. That’s no slam, but, on a lot of compilation albums in Christian music, you see the same names over and over again. We didn’t want to do that. We didn’t want to put just who is hot right now. We wanted to definitely have a connection with the artists.”
This sentiment couldn’t be more reflected than it is in the new album’s lead single and title track, “Bless the Broken Road,” which features Melodie Crittenden. Though her time as a member of Selah was brief, her mark on the group is indelible. And the song finalizes both Selah’s farewell to Crittenden and her farewell to their fans. According to Radio and Records, “Bless the Broken Road” had entered the Top 10 of both Christian radio’s pop and inspo airplay charts at press time.
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