Award-winning country singer-songwriter John Berry enlisted producer Steve Dorff to bring a reverent and majestic feel to songs of praise on Find My Joy (out March 25 via Gaither Music Group's Gaither Gospel Series).
"I've been working on doing this album for years, but I never got the right combination of producer, songs, people, all of that because I wanted this to be an extension of the Christmas music I've done over the years," Berry told Wide Open Country. "All of the Christmas music I've done is big and beautiful. I've never done any of the 'Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer' Christmas songs. Not that there's anything wrong with that. That's just not what I do. I wanted big and beautiful, and that's what we got."
Berry grew up listening to and singing along with traditional hymns and contemporary worship standards. Dorff, co-writer of George Strait's "I Cross My Heart" and Kenny Rogers' "Through the Years," wasn't exposed at a young age to the same attention-grabbing melodies, which brought fresh ears to each Goliath-sized arrangement.
"I loved the idea of putting my musical spin on some of these incredible pieces of musical art," added Dorff (as quoted by The Christian Beat). "John was so very collaborative in letting me be inventive in my approach to the overall sound and the production of the project."
Berry and Dorff's vision resulted in orchestral accompaniment for six standards and four newer songs. Most were recorded with a 40-piece string orchestra, with some tracks elevated by a smaller orchestra and one selection ("Something Bigger Than Me") featuring the world-renown Utah Symphony.
"It's not your daddy's gospel record, that's for sure, but it's not contemporary Christian-sounding at all," Berry said. "I mean, it's a symphony. It's just big and beautiful. I mean 'Great Is Thy Faithfulness,' the string section brings me to tears every time they come in. It's just so ding-dang beautiful. They should have left me off and just let those instruments play."
Even without its heavenly, new arrangement, "Great is Thy Faithfulness" holds a special place in the marriage and faith journey of Berry and his wife, Robin.
"I had throat cancer a couple of years ago and went through those treatments," Berry explained. "There were times when the chemotherapy treatments made me so violently sick. I lost 68 pounds and had a feeding tube because I couldn't eat. I was sitting hugging the toilet of our bathroom with my wife sitting in there with me, rubbing my shoulders and reminding me of how faithful God has been in my life and singing that song."
Tackling "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" presented a tall task because of Berry's appreciation for a Country Music Hall of Famer's rendition.
"Somebody told me they were asked about doing the song 'O Holy Night,' and they said, 'I can't do that song. That's John Berry's song'," Berry said. "That's how I felt about 'Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus': 'That's Alan Jackson's song.' He does such a remarkable version of that song. We did one, but it's very different. It really came out nice."
A cover of "Blessings," a prior Christian radio hit for Laura Story, rounds out the new album, along with three Dorff co-writes: the title track, "Something Bigger Than Me" and "Live Like You."
Future goals for Berry include a tour on these songs in 2023 that'll lead up to Easter.
Find My Joy Tracklist
1. "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" - Traditional arrangement by Steve Dorff / John Berry
2. "I Surrender All" - Traditional arrangement by Steve Dorff / John Berry
3. "Find My Joy" - Steve Dorff / Jack Cassidy
4. "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" - Traditional arrangement by Steve Dorff / John Berry
5. "It Is Well With My Soul" - Traditional arrangement by Steve Dorff / John Berry
6. "Something Bigger Than Me" - Steve Dorff / Marty Panzer
7. "How Great Thou Art" - Stuart K. Hine
8. "Blessings" - Laura Story
9. "Blessed Assurance" - Traditional arrangement by Steve Dorff / John Berry
10. "Live Like You" - Steve Dorff / Jack Cassidy
READ MORE: Jenee Fleenor's Country Music Peers Praise the Award-Winning Fiddler: 'She's The G.O.A.T. These Days'
Enjoy all things country?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.