It seems as though hymns are hot again. With such praise and worship franchises as Passion and Hillsong taking a crack at bringing the old to the new over the past few years, the great traditions of the faith have been poised to once again break onto the charts. Perhaps none has scored as much success as worship wunderkind Chris Tomlin with his contemporary reworking of the John Newton classic, “Amazing Grace.”
Yet Tomlin is not the only one with a heart for bringing the classic songs of the faith to new audiences.
Dawson Cowals is a Portland-based singer/songwriter with a heart to do just that. With a musical background that found him playing piano by ear early, picking up the flute later, and eventually developing his guitar skills and leading worship during and after college. Speaking of the spirit of his music, Cowals shares: “I want to be able to bring words of hope and comfort to those who are lost and hurting, to share the joys and source of strength I’ve found through my friendship with Jesus. It’s not about me. It’s not about fame or recognition.”
It’s that very thought process that makes Cowals’ choice of song recreation here that much more poignant.
“Turn Your Eyes” is possessed of a simple sound; brushed drums, subtle bass, and finger-picked guitar. Cowals’ skills are solid and the arrangement is refreshing and inviting, offering a new look at an old classic. His voice is passionate but not overwhelming and fits into this gentle, jazz-influenced rendition well. Additionally, like Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace” reinvention, Cowals’ lyrical additions are light but powerful, keeping with the flow but offering just that little bit extra.
Ultimately, Cowals’ sound is classic coffeehouse singer/songwriter, with an independent vibe that stretches throughout each and every note, reminiscent of an act like The Cobalt Season. His talent is obvious without being overbearing and his heartbeat is worn right on his musical sleeve. “Turn Your Eyes” is a great listen for the worshipper looking for something other than what Top 40 CCM radio has to offer and one can only wait to see what the artist’s planned full-length hymn project will deliver.
Review by Andrew Greenhalgh
Rating: 3.5 Stars (out of 5)