“Unliklies” Album reviewed by Breathecast.com
Written by Timothy Yap
Blake Bolerjack is a three dimensional singer. He has the uncanny ability to inhabit every syllable of his songs birthing out the drama, the action and the emotions of the song till it becomes animated with a live like persona. Maybe attributive to his stunning way of singing is the fact that Bolerjack did graduate from the theatre department at the Oklahoma Baptist University. Further, Bolerjack is not a slouch when it comes to singing; his utilization of the legato and sostenuto of singing certainly has added a colorful charm to anything he puts his voice to. Somehow his supple and dewy tenor calls to mind meisters such as Josh Groban, Clay Aiken and Wayne Haun. And such adulation of Bolerjack is also shared by “Singing News” magazine when Bolerjack’s “Somebody Cares” was a highly-charted entry. Moreover, in April of 2007, the Oklahoma State Capitol has graced Bolerjack with the privilege of recording the “Prayer Force One” theme song. The first group Blake toured with was The Continental Singers in the summer of 1998. While a part of The Continentals, Blake had the privilege of singing backup for Greg Long at one of his concerts. Blake has also toured with several other groups including the Master’s Hand Quartet who were invited to sing on stage at a Robbie Hiner Old Gospel Hour Quartet concert.
“Unlikelies” is Bolerjack’s fifth solo studio album. And he certainly flexes his compelling vocals well throughout these thirteen newly recorded covers as well as originals. Musically, Bolerjack covers quite a spectrum of turf here, but he is at his absolutely best when he croons a ballad. Easily the album’s phenomenal song is the title cut “Unlikelies.” Written by Bert Johnson, Dixie and Sharon Phillips, “Unlikelies” speak of Christ’s welcoming grace that overlooks our infirmities. One can’t help but fight back tears of appreciation when Bolerjack sings: “God of unlikelies and God of no chance/Bids beggars to banquets and cripples to dance/God of unlikelies chose unlikely me/To be part of His family.” Not since Mark Bishop’s “God Builds Churches with Broken People” has grace been so eloquently palpable. Though nothing else is of the same magnitude as “Unlikelies,” Keith Turchan’s “I’m Still Amazed” will continue to dazzle ballad lovers. Known for sharing his testimony of his bouts with depression in his concerts, “I’m Still Amazed” is a great testimonial song of the never tarnished work of Jesus on the Cross.
With a voice like Bolerjack, no song is formidable. Thus, you will find him soaring to great heights on the classical cum opera cum pop’s “End of the Beginning.” Sounding like the aforementioned Groban, this garish of praise gives opportunity for Bolerjack to exhibit his powerful and flavorful voice. And then he gets down gritty with the sawdust freckled “Standing in the Need of Prayer.” The leaping banjo frills, the jubilant sounding fiddles and Borlerjack’s glaringly bright vocals show that he can even excel in rustic bluegrass. While the Celtic-titled ballad “Faithful God” is one of those songs you can close your eyes to as we worship with Bolerjack after a long-tested day. Though many have taken to cover “This is How It Feels to be Free,” Bolerjack has resisted the urge to reinvent the wheel. Rather, he has kept his reading unembellished and letting the song speak for itself.
When it comes to “Unlikelies,” two factors work in its favor: first, the songs are well selected exposing Borlerjack to a plethora of styles from ersatz classical to country Gospel to bluegrass to pop and to traditional Southern Gospel. Second, Borlerjack has that voice that makes us pay attention. And when he sings, flesh and sinews grow as he slowly brings his message to life in his song.