Veteran singer/songwriter Sammy Ward has returned from a long hiatus with a new EP, Hymns Anew. The new EP features re-creations of iconic hymns. On the record, Sammy takes a more modernized approach, giving the hymns some of his tried and true sound: hooky melodies with pop grooves. Whether intentional or not, Sammy releases Hymn Anew, exactly 20 years after he released his first record, My Passion.
After a season of full-time music ministry, Sammy did some entrepeneurial work: founding and managing a variety of tech startups. Despite this vocational shift, songwriting and worship leading have continued to be a priority for him through the years.
Sammy took some time to answer a few questions about the songs on Hymns Anew.
"Make Me Whole Again (Nothing But The Blood Of Jesus)" "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus." This shoots straight to the heart for for me. I've sang this song my entire life. And, it gets me every time. The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I understand about what He's done for me. For all of us. I was able to infuse my personal life into this song, making it a bit more modern by the inspiration of one of my best friend's dad that went to heaven. I sang this version I wrote at his funeral, and it just wrecked me. We feel broken at times of deep loss, and we need to ask God to "make us whole again." Therefore, I just needed the Lord to make me whole again one more time, as I penned this from my heart, for myself, but, also as an encouragement and reminder to my brothers and sisters to know only Jesus can truly heal. And, He has done this through the blood He shed for us on the cross.
"Blessedness (Leaning On The Everlasting Arms)" This is definitely a hymn that I wasn't sure I could modernize. Maybe, I should just say this is my best effort to do so. And, hopefully, I was able to do it justice. The words are so straight forward and can penetrate the heart, if you let it. I love how honest it is. Honesty, I feel, has been lost sometimes in today's modern worship music (which, of course, I still write and am still a big fan of). However, penning this one makes me feel like we still have a long way to go. I think learning from these great hymns will get us closer to where we should be heading as the church in worship.
"Wondrously Saved (Glory To His Name)" Again, quite the challenge to modernize this one. However, I think that is certainly one of the reasons I wanted to do a hymns record. It's challenging for me in many ways. I purposefully picked songs that are a bit "left of center" to attempt to remake. Not surprisingly, it's challenged my thought process and spiritual walk. These songs were originally written during a time when social media and cell phones were not a distraction. The pureness and genuineness of the lyrics are just timeless. I'm hoping I'm able to somehow carry these on in an authentic way, in a way that will hopefully last through trends. Sure, I've put modern trendy twists to these, but timeless truth will never grow old. There is so much scripture in these, and we know that God's word will never return void. "I am so wondrously saved from sin, Jesus so sweetly abides within/There at the cross where He took me in, Glory to His Name." There is no denying we are, and always will be, "Wondrously Saved."
"Perfect Plea (Oh How I Love Jesus)" When kneeling next to my children's beds at night as we sing and say our prayers, this hymn comes to mind. [It's] a simple song. I first learned it when I was young, yet the lyrics become more profound the older I get. Originally written by Reverend Frederick Whitfield in 1829, "Perfect Plea" is the second single from my EP.
"Wonder Working Power (There Is Power In The Blood)" This hymn is one of the first songs that comes to mind when I need encouragement in my faith. It was originally written in 1899 by Lewis Edgar Jones, while attending a camp meeting. The hymn's lyrics are strong and deep, yet simple, much like the gospel. Songwriting was Jones' avocation, which struck a personal chord with me. I can so relate to how and where this song was written, as I've had many songs come out of leading worship at camps and churches throughout my life. Like Jones, I have continued writing in the midst of my transition from being a full-time traveling musician to an entrepreneur. I pray this song reaches you deep within.
"Hymns Anew" This is a reflective piano ballad that honors Christ. "Hymns Anew" was ultimately inspired by my love of hymns and the timeless truth they carry.
Kevin McNeese started NRT in 2002 and has worked in the industry since 1999 in one form or another. He has been a fan of Christian music since 1991.
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