From their inception, Selah has always been synonymous with hymns. In fact, the understated beauty of the trio’s 1999 debut, Be Still My Soul (Curb), helped initiate a hymn revival in Christian music that is still thriving today. Their discography has significantly re-popularized the church’s greatest songs while decorating the popular group with numerous Dove Awards, number one singles, sold out concert tours and over two and half million albums sold.
Taking a cue from the honesty of these historic songs of faith, Selah swaps their well-worn hymnbook for a collection of originals and choice cuts from current songwriters’ catalogs in their seventh studio recording, Hope of the Broken World (Curb). Birthed from seasons of personal hardship, Selah’s latest is a celebration of the hope Todd Smith, Allan Hall and Amy Perry have discovered through surrender to God, and a testimony to the group’s collective desire to share these stories of hope with broken people through music.
“Into my chaos comes Your promise . . . Restoration comes, Hope of the broken world,” (from “Hope of the Broken World”)
Todd Smith and his family have found restoration and hope in God’s promise following the loss of his daughter, Audrey, after only two hours of life. “Every April 7th is a difficult day,” the lead singer vulnerably admits. “We don’t know whether to celebrate or mourn, so we do both.”
Rather than diminish his faith, Smith’s family tragedy further established his conviction in a God who knows everything, sees everything and will work through anything – a promise heard in the title cut’s worshipful balladry. Penned by the popular worship writers, Carl Cartee and Jennie Lee Riddle (“Revelation Song”), the lyric encompasses Todd’s present journey perfectly.
Adding a healthy baby girl, Charlotte, to the Smith family earlier this year, Todd is reveling in the joy of parenting his four young girls. Wanting to snapshot these treasured times, he sat down with fellow father and former FFH member, Michael Boggs, to write “Moments Like These,” a tender acoustic tribute to the ladies in his life. “I wanted to remind myself to slow down and enjoy who my kids are,” the proud papa shares. “Many times I say ‘Not now.’ But this is a prayer for me to make the most of this incredible time God has given me with my girls. I hope it makes other dads stop and think about their relationship with their kids. And if there is anything they need to fix or address, I hope they will be humble enough to set things straight and enjoy the children God entrusted to them.”
“This life is not my own/I was bought when love was slain/What high cost to pay death’s wage/Now ransomed I am freedom’s slave . . .” (from “When Love was Slain”)
When Allan Hall turned forty last year, his weight was at an all-time high, hindering his ability to minister effectively on the road. “I wasn’t surrendering my health to God and it was visible,” Hall confesses, recognizing the battle was not strictly physical, but also spiritual. “While I was telling the audience that God cares deeply about every aspect of their lives, I was not caring for myself and my ministry was compromised.”
Heeding the wake up call of his disposition, the veteran musician decided to keep the pounds in check. Having shed fifty pounds so far – half of his total goal – Allan says he feels “a bigger responsibility to ‘steward’ my body. After all, the body is the Temple, and my ‘temple’ was in massive disrepair!” Furthermore, he expresses, “I want to inspire folks that change is possible, and I need to be a living example of that.”
Speaking of inspiration, the Hope album gives tribute to Allan’s greatest musical mentor, Dolly Parton, by covering her beloved hit, “Coat of Many Colors.” “I feel a deep connection with Dolly because she moved to Nashville at eighteen chasing a dream that God had put in her heart. I did the same thing,” Allan relates. “As Hope was taking shape with ‘rootsy-er’ elements, the song seemed very natural to record.”
So natural was Allan’s interpretation of Parton’s classic that the singing legend wrote Hall an effusive letter of praise after hearing a rough mix of Selah’s version. “I was so humbled,” Hall says with obvious excitement. “It’s a great feeling to know the creator of a song loved your interpretation of their creation!”
Parton’s song is only one example of Hope’s southern aspects. The “swampy blues” electric guitar of Buddy Miller’s “Shelter Me,” a song of God’s protection, and the exquisite slow-rolling banjo on the stark surrender of “When Love Was Slain,” successfully incorporate Americana components previously untapped by the inspirational threesome. “Coming from East Tennessee, I’ve always loved roots music,” Allan explains. “Some of these songs lent themselves to a more stripped-down approach, really allowing the story and lyrics to shine through. Hope has a lighter feel than previous albums. I think that reflects the joyful places that we are finding ourselves in these days.”
“As I lay me down, Heaven hear me now/I’m lost without a cause, after giving it my all . . .” (from “I Look to You”)
Around the time Allan was considering the consequences of his health, Amy Perry and her husband began to consider a family. But there was one obstacle: Amy’s weight. “I looked at the health issues I was having and difficulty of traveling, and realized if I got pregnant I would end up over 300 pounds.”
So for the first time in a lifelong battle with her body, Amy asked God for help. “I know He doesn’t care what number I weigh. But He greatly cares that I submit every area of life to Him,” the powerhouse singer states. “And I hadn’t done that with food.” A divine reconnection with an old friend, who is a nutritionist and personal trainer with a spiritual foundation, gave Amy the motivation and accountability she needed to make a drastic change.
With the newfound freedom of losing eighty-five pounds, Amy finally felt released to start a family. She and her husband Jake are expecting their first child in early 2012. Perry now has a platform to aid those fighting similar battles. “I have experienced a liberty in ministry that I’ve never seen before,” she says. “I’ve been through some stuff that hurt me and left me feeling worthless. If sharing that helps someone realize they are beautiful and of value, then I’ll share it forever.”
With Hope of the Broken World, Selah recognizes their opportunity to relate with and help listeners heal through songs that poignantly contrast worldly hurt with spiritual hope. “We don’t know what people need when they put in a Selah CD, or when they come to a concert,” Amy humbly discloses. “We just want God to use us.” Allan agrees. “We have always wanted to comfort hurting souls. I wear it as a badge of honor that our fans are broken people who say our music speaks to them because we don’t shy away from loss or suffering.”