Review: Picnic in the Meadow “Livin’ In Me”

Picnic in the Meadow “Livin’ In Me”

23 Feb, 2011 Kelly O'Neil

Wyoming native Bryan D. Jones is the powerhouse behind Picnic in the Meadow.  This talented songwriter chose a name to place his music under that would capture the essence of what these heartfelt songs are about: multiplying.  When Jesus fed the masses in the meadow with a meager amount of bread and fish, it was not only a miracle but a labor of love.   Jones desire is for the music and ministry pouring out of Livin’ in Me to compel people to share their bounty with the organization Hope’s Promise.  The Jones family is deeply committed to this group that provides care and assistance to orphans in Kenya, Vietnam and Nepal.  One of the results of this unbridled passion is the dozen positively uplifting songs found on Livin’ in Me.

Jones wisely took his beloved music to Music City where some of Nashville’s finest studio musicians brought his songs to life with the help and direction of producer Kim Copeland.  Each well structured song was given top shelf treatment and the resulting album is a true statement to Jones’ songwriting talent and deep commitment to his faith.  Livin’ in Me opens with a rocking number tinged with country western flavors; it is Nashville after all.  Ron Wallace provides the vocals for the title track and sets the stage for the excellent mixing quality and song structures that will ensue throughout the rest of the album.  Tim Buppert adds his vocal twangs to the more dramatic “Burn.”  Fueled by a driving beat and more overdrive on the guitar, the constant eighth note strum is reminiscent of The Edge.  The toe-tapper “Risen,” also vocally lead by Buppert, is a fun tune about the grandness of Easter.  The guitar and background vocals add excellent fillers between phrases.  Session player Kelly Back plays a fantastic rock guitar solo in the coda.

The most prominent vocalist on Livin’ in Me is one of Copeland’s artists, the talented Rachel Williams.  She lends her vocals to the upbeat number “I’m Missing You.”  This track is a prime example of Jones’ poetic lyrical style.  Despite the song being about a deceased friend, it remains uplifting with the antidotes, “When I hear birds singing I think of you / When I hear a guitar play I’m missing you / When I see stars dancing, I’m smiling but I’m missing you.”  Those poignant phrases are relatable and comforting to someone who instead could be wallowing in morose and despair.  No doubt Williams has a natural gift for song as is evidenced in her delivery of “New Every Morning.”  She aggressively wraps herself around each line making it her own, ala Amy Grant but with a more deep-chested country twang laced with sass like Shania Twain.  Williams soars gracefully in the ballad “Hold On To Love.”  This big luscious formula song has ample synthesized string and keyboard accompaniment courtesy of Buddy Hyatt.  The keyboards have a tinny ring to them that dates the song back to the sound of the early 1990s but it is not enough to detract from the heart of the song.  Hyatt produces a better tone in Wallace’s ballad “Be Like You” that also features Back playing a moving guitar solo in the bridge that blends well with the overall mood of the song.

A highlight of Livin’ in Me is the gorgeous duet between Williams and Buppert.  Accompanied by Grand Ole Opry regular Hoot Hester on fiddle, “Dance With Me” is a painfully honest and sad love song played out in a storytelling fashion.  This tearjerker along the veins of Mark Schultz’s songwriting, is not as overtly Christian as the other tracks, but rather is a testament to the awesomeness of human love.

Rounding out Livin’ in Me are two numbers that would work great in a contemporary church setting.  Williams, Hoot and Hyatt deliver the tender “Gaze Into Your Holiness” while Ronnie Kimball leads the romping “You Are Holy” complete with backup choir comprised of Jones, his wife Cheryl, Chuck Renfroe and Copeland.

Picnic in the Meadow’s songs are stellar, unassuming and capture the essence of human compassion guided by Grace.  Livin’ in Me is a tremendous effort and green light for Jones to continue spreading the Message through his magnificent songs.

Review by Kelly O’Neil
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)