Acclaimed bluegrass ensemble and Song Garden recording artist Chosen Road recently released Appalachian Hymns. Produced by the group’s Zachary Alvis and Tyler Robertson, the 12-song collection pairs the band’s unparalleled acoustic instrumentation and vocal harmonies with classic songs of faith and the Church. The project’s cornerstone lead single, “Be Thou My Vision,” is one of the oldest hymns of the Church, bearing a message as timely today as when the words were first written centuries ago in Ireland. Other highlights of Appalachian Hymns include the rousing “Brethren We Have Met To Worship”; the striking simplicity of “I Stand Amazed”; the gentle, guitar-driven “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”; the a cappella “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be”; and the crowd-pleasing instrumental “Send The Light.” In this TCB Exclusive, Zachary Alvis talks about rediscovering these classic hymns while working on this project and the multigenerational response to the collection.
Congratulations on the recent release of Appalachian Hymns! When did you first have the vision for this project and how did it evolve up until the release?
Thank you so much! We’ve had the vision for Appalachian Hymns for quite a while now. People have asked us for years to do a hymns record, and we knew it was a great idea, but we honestly never had time to work on it. With COVID impacting everyone’s touring schedule in 2020, it became the perfect opportunity for us to dive into some old hymns and find the ones we loved to put on this album.
Why is the overall theme/message of this project so important to you personally?
I think hymns can be so valuable to our faith. We grow up singing so many of these songs in church and we know them by heart, but that might just be the problem. We know them so well that we almost “go through the motions” and meaninglessly sing the words. For me, learning and recording these hymns put them in a totally new light. The process honestly opened my eyes to a lot of the rich, theological depth contained in these old songs of the Church we have all been singing for years.
Which lyric do you think the world most needs to hear now in its current state?
It’s a toss-up for me between “Be Thou My Vision” or “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” I think both go hand in hand so it’s hard to choose. Obviously, our world would be a much better place if we would simply keep our eyes on Jesus and pray that He, our Savior, would be our vision daily.
Is there a recurring theme you have noted from the listener responses you’ve received?
Younger people will say, ‘That song is beautiful! I’ve never heard it before,” and on the flip side, the older generation will say, “I haven’t heard that song in so long and have certainly never heard it done like that!” The album has had an incredible multigenerational response, and we are so happy about that.
How are you looking to define success for this project?
We have covered this whole album in prayer. We prayed about each song we chose and then prayed again when we recorded them. In ministry, the entire goal is to share the gospel. If this album can encourage and show Jesus to someone, that would make it a success in my book.
Who, or what, is currently providing inspiration for you, either musically or spiritually?
That’s always a tough question for a musician to answer. I try my best to find inspiration in everyday things, whether it’s pictures, songs—anything I can see or hear, really. You have to keep your eyes and ears open at all times.
Musically, I have such eclectic taste. My playlist spans from bluegrass to rock, country, jazz, and just about any genre you can imagine. Spiritually, I have been trying to draw as much inspiration as I can from the original songwriter, David. The Psalms are so rich in content that you can read the same thing on a different day and pull something different from it.
What are you most expectant for looking toward 2022?
The last couple of years have shown us how quickly things can change for everyone. The pandemic has allowed me to grow so much in my faith. So often we talk about fully trusting the Lord for our every need, but I’ll be the first to admit I sometimes take for granted just how in control He really is. Last year when we found out about COVID and learned that we would not be able to do what God has called us to do for an indefinite amount of time, that was hard. I realized then I had absolutely no control over the situation. I had to put my faith into action and put all my hope in Jesus, and just as He promised, He provided.
I am truly excited for 2022, probably more than any other year. God is opening more and more doors for Chosen Road to minister, and hopefully ‘Appalachian Hymns’ will be a blessing to many. My wife and I just welcomed our first child in September, so I’m also looking forward to watching our son grow and learn. It’s going to be an exciting year all around.