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Mike Sanford

Hope & Broadway – 2014 (Lamon)

Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh

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CDs by Mike Sanford

Ever since it's creation, the country music world has found itself interwoven with overarching themes of faith, birthed out of the fertile soil and faith-filled world of the Bible Belt. And while those ties have been tested over the past several years as the genre has undergone something of a transformation, blending new styles and shifting views into the genre, there are still those who hold tight to the traditions and faith of the past. Texas-born and bred Mike Sanford proudly counts himself among the latter and on "Hope & Broadway," he showcases that faith through a set of solid, Texas-flavored country and rock songs.

With its play on the biblical allusion to the "broad" and "narrow" ways, the record draws from Sanford's personal experiences of growing up in Texas and excelling at both music and rodeo and then being drawn to the church as his new destination. Songs like opener "Can I Get An Amen" offer up a slice of homespun storytelling while making an early splash with the artist's strong vocals and warm, engaging arrangements as "Old Black Crow" shines with a laidback approach and warm acoustics.

"Less Traveled" leads listeners down an unexpected path, Sanford's rich country baritone tackling a Celtic-flavored celebration of a life of worship and receives a reprise to close out the record with a joyous spirit while "The Devil's Backbone" bristles with a rock country edge that provides a solid contrast. "I'm Falling," is a very faith-forward track that features a creative breakdown that sets the track apart, but it's "Cold Wind Blows" that really shines with its heartfelt story of aging and Alzheimer's curse of turning "lovers into strangers." It's the kind of track that tugs at the heartstrings and that really shows Sanford's songwriting gifts.

The Book of Psalms informs "Pastures of Green," Sanford laying his lyric out across a solid, radio ready mixture of warm acoustics and resonant rhythm guitars while "Feed My Sheep" is an airy, soulful mid-tempo jam. "Follow Me" follows suit with a similar vibe while "A Man Named Jesus" is a rip roaring affair that puts Sanford's faith fully on display.

Mike Sanford's "Hope & Broadway" is an unashamed display of faith-based songs without being the boring organ-filled hymns of a dusty old church. Rather, Sanford owns his faith with honesty, crafting lyrics that speak with authenticity while framing them in layers of rich, modern Texas-flavored country.