Like an old photo album with dates and details scribbled on the back of the photographs, Brent Cobb’s new Southern Gospel project, And now let’s go to the page…, has family memories hidden in every anthem on the tracklist.
Originally from Ellaville, Georgia, Cobb grew up in a Southern Baptist church with his aunt playing the piano in the corner while the congregation sang. Her father, Patrick Cobb, leads the singing these days, in a role he took over from his own father. Cobb tells The Boot that when he was making his new album, he consulted with his father and sister, Alecia, to make sure he hadn’t forgotten any of what he calls “Southern’s greatest hits.” Gospel”.
Patrick and Alecia also lend their voices to the project, singing backup on the final track – an abbreviated, a capella rendition of “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds” – along with Cobb’s mother Renee, his wife Layne and famous cousin Dave. Cobb. , an esteemed producer from Nashville, known for his work with Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile and many others.
Dave also produced this project, as he owns several of Cobb’s previous records. As a testament to the importance of the Cobb cousins working together on And now let’s go to the page…, one of those songs – “We Shall Rise” – comes from a memory that was not only formative for the singer’s relationship with gospel music, but also laid the foundation for his friendship with his cousin and of all the musical projects they’ve worked together since.
“Dave and I kind of met – his grandmother passed away, my great-aunt – and she would come to my church and perform ‘We Shall Rise’ a capella. So we’ve included this one here,” Cobb remember. “It was very special, this woman and her life…and this song was kind of the foundation of our relationship. It’s all very personally connected.”
On this song, and most of the rest of the track listing, Cobb enlists Caylee Hammack to contribute backing vocals. Hammack is a rising star in her own right, but that’s not the only reason Cobb chose her for this project: She just happens to be from the same small hometown as him.
“I’ve known her since she was 12,” he reveals. “She’s always been great, she’s wonderful. It was kind of a family project already, and she might as well be family, and she was available. So yeah, that’s how it went. . I’ve been watching her become a star since she was 12.”
Cobb’s southern gospel influences aren’t limited to his personal memories of his church and hometown, however. In fact, when he first came into contact with Dave to produce the project, he pitched it as a gospel record inspired by Jerry Lee Lewis’ country albums of the 70s and late 60s. He had been inspired by Hank Williams’ Grand Ole Opry performance of “Old Country Church” with Little Jimmy Dickens, Alan Jackson’s gospel records, and Brad Paisley’s habit, on his first three records, of including a gospel standard as the final track.
And now let’s go to the page… doesn’t sound like a bundle of church hymns, but a jam-packed rock ‘n’ roll record, with the kind of peaks and valleys, tempo shifts and instrumental solos you’d expect from such a project .
“Well, you know, I always make it clear that it’s not just a gospel album, it’s a Southern gospel album. And what I mean by that is that it’s all music from the South. And the word gospel means truth and good news,” Cobb reflects. “If you listen to Otis Redding, or if you listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd – all that Southern music – that’s all the gospel truth, the good news. Musically too, it’s all Southern music, and I wanted incorporating all of that: southern soul, southern rock, southern country and southern gospel, and it’s the same, it’s from the same place.
The record did not remain a mere homage to Jerry Lee Lewis – the Cobb cousins settled into a wider scope with “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”, the album’s opening track, and stayed true to it – but you can still trace the project’s musical predecessors as you listen to each song.
“He came out like Lynyrd Skynyrd got together with Jerry Lee Lewis and Otis Redding and went to Muscle Shoals to make a record,” Cobb laughs.
Imbued with the musical and spiritual influences of Cobb, And now let’s go to the page…The creation of was propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic and a near-fatal car accident Cobb experienced in 2020. Both events lit a fire under the singer to turn the wheels of his gospel record, as he had a renewed appreciation for the fact that our time on earth is not unlimited. Specifically, his car accident – which occurred with his young son in the vehicle – also triggered other thoughts.
“After something like that happened, you realize how complex everything is. It’s all tied to that moment that happened so randomly,” Cobb said. “That morning my wife had a hairdresser appointment. I had my son with me. I had to turn around and go home before leaving to go to my parents’ house, where we were going that morning. And I took a different route. And then this car happened to be, at that very moment, going through a stop sign at a four-way stop.
It got him thinking about all the parallels and near misses in life: all the seemingly random factors that played into his T-boning at the intersection that day, and all the seemingly random factors that might have salvage other wrecks the way he’ll ever know.
“I’ve been through this four-way stop all my life. And I’ve traveled the country for a living, for the past 16 years, and I’ve never had a car accident,” marvels t he, continuing to wonder – half playfully, half earnestly – about the possibilities of other potential parallels and how the universe could split into two timelines in the blink of an eye; in the collision of two vehicles at a small town intersection.
“We could go as far as we wanted with this conversation,” Cobb continued, unfazed. “Who knows? Perhaps the parallel separated at that time, and in one [timeline], I continued, and this car ran [the stop sign] right after my visit. You just don’t know.”
Cobb explores some of these more metaphysical points in “When It’s My Time”, the only original on And now let’s go to the page…, using a music video steeped in surreal imagery and fateful events, like a plane crash, that splits its timeline in two. Directed by Curtis Wayne Milliard, the video lends a visual element to the song’s peaceful, walking exploration of life, fate and the afterlife.
The singer co-wrote “When It’s My Time” with his wife during the nights they spent together on their back porch, during the three-hour window of silence between their two young children’s bedtime and the fact to fall asleep themselves. In part, his lyrics were inspired by the prospect of Thanksgiving during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how the virus could change the usual tradition of everyone’s family cramming into Cobb’s grandmother’s house.
“We were like, ‘Ah, I don’t know if people should stay there this year because we don’t want to risk Grandma’s health.’ And my grandmother being the spiritual Southern woman that she is, she feels like, well, when it’s her time, it’s not up to her,” Cobb recounts, before quickly adding “That said, no one stayed at Grandma’s. Just in case.”
Yet the broader message was one of keeping a relaxed grip on life: wandering through time with the exquisite simplicity that Cobb has always applied to music – and to faith.
“You know, the greatest song ever written was, ‘Row, row, row your boat / Gently on the stream / Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily / Life is but a dreamhe adds with a smile. “It’s so simple. This is how [‘When It’s My Time’] feels. It’s like that life feels.”
And now let’s go to the page… arrives on Friday (January 28.)