Jimmy Fortune is best known as the tenor vocalist for the Statler Brothers, a role he fulfilled for 21 years. With "Hits & Hymns," Fortune touches upon two sides of his musical personality. Half this album, the "Hits" portion, covers songs he helped make popular with the Statler Brothers, while the "Hymns" side finds Fortune singing some of his favorite spiritual songs. Fortune sounds comfortable and sings commendably here, no matter which of these two hats he's wearing at any given time.
Fortune mainly plays it straight by giving the sacred songs devout respect, while personalizing Statler Brother songs (such as "Elizabeth") just a tad more. However, his version of "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" stands out from the rest. It features gospel quartet backing vocals, in addition to some really nice country fiddling, which gives it a unique flavor.
The album also features one new song, called "If I Was God." The song's lyric speculates about how life might be different if mortal beings had the chance to play the high power's role. It's difficult to understand why God allows what He allows (particularly life's more painful experiences) at times because men and women cannot see the big picture. This is a moving, thoughtful song.
When you combine a skilled vocalist with proven hits and favorite church songs, it's about as close to a sure thing as you're likely to get. Fortune's "Hits & Hymns" begins with this promising formula, and with the album's bright and enthusiastic performances, the singer pulls it all off beautifully.