For Jason Crabb, longtime powerhouse lead vocalist for Gospel music group The Crabb Family, the "right thing" has never been a question.
With a soulful, unforgettable voice like his, Crabb's "right thing" was always a given. He was born to sing. Baptized in a God-given talent pool, weaned on the hymnal and mentored by Bill Gaither himself, Jason Crabb hit the road at age 14 and, alongside his family, has pursued his calling full-throttle ever since.
He's performed at Carnegie Hall, become a "fan favorite" at the Grand Ole Opry, appeared regularly on the Gaither Homecoming Series videos, and was honored to sing for the Rev. Billy Graham's farewell crusade in New York City. His voice has echoed in churches great and small at home in the U.S. and around the world.
But in 2007, the Grammy-nominated, 10-time Dove Award winner felt the winds of change blow in, and he knew it was time to pursue a new path. Solo.
His debut album garnered him his first Grammy win, and he has been touring as a solo artist ever since, performing about 150 shows a year all over the country.
On Friday, March 22, Crabb will add Eureka Springs to that long list of tour stops, as he will perform a concert at The Auditorium, sponsored and organized by the Great Passion Play. The concert was originally scheduled to be held at the Passion Play's amphitheater but was moved to The Aud on Monday because of concerns about the weather.
Friday will be a great opportunity for fans of contemporary Christian music to see the genre's reigning Artist and Male Vocalist of the Year, because last week Crabb released his sophomore album to rave reviews from critics.
The follow-up to his Grammy-winning, self-titled debut, the new 11-song collection titled "Love Is Stronger" finds Crabb working with an all-star cast of producers including Jay DeMarcus (producer and member of country super group Rascal Flatts), Ed Cash (Chris Tomlin, Kari Jobe) and Wayne Haun (Celine Dion, Earl Scruggs), each of whom was working with Crabb for the first time.
"This is a dream come true!" Crabb explains in a press release. "I mean -- to get to go into the studio with these three producers and to have them make you better at what you do is unbelievable to me. All throughout the recording process I would find myself thinking, 'Really? Is this happening? Am I getting to do this?' This is a record I've been waiting to do my whole life, and I've never been more excited about a group of songs."
That group of songs was written by some of the music industry's most-respected writers including Ronnie Freeman, Tony Wood, Sarah Hart, Marc Byrd, Jimmy Yeary, Sonya Isaacs Yeary, Connie Harrington, Mia Fieldes, Seth Mosley, Michael A. Mobley, Geron Davis and Barry Weeks among others.
Associated Press critic Jonathan Landrum Jr. recently wrote of the new album: "Grammy-winning Christian singer Jason Crabb impressively drives home the theme of how genuine love can be even if there's heartache and grief on his sophomore album, 'Love Is Stronger.' His soaring voice, lyrics of enduring faith and solid production on the 11-track set continue to prove why he is the Gospel Music Association's reigning male vocalist and artist of the year. On "Let Mercy Hold You," he encourages people not to allow their minor mistakes discourage them and offers hope for those who might be lacking faith on "God's Up to Something," singing that the struggle will not last long if the proper belief system is intact."
Crabb's voice has been heard on Christian AC radio in recent months surrounding "Let Mercy Hold You," a song produced by Cash and written by Fieldes, Mosley and Alexa Willis, that has turned heads across the genre.
"What the Blood Is For," produced by Haun, is a power ballad that includes a 40-piece orchestra and features an unmistakable vocal from Crabb indicative of the sound that has made him a household favorite.
The title cut is a favorite of Crabb, he says, because of his own family's journey over the past two years when his wife, Shellye, suffered some health issues that led her to several specialists to seek advice before she was able to get back on her feet.
He recalls what day-to-day life looked like for their family as he describes the song: "This was a hard road for us. There were days she couldn't get out of bed, and I watched her struggle as she was having trouble being the wonderful mother that she is. It was difficult and heartbreaking. But then I watched her fight back. I watched what happens when love is stronger. I watched God move and her persevere. When I heard the lyric to 'Love Is Stronger,' I knew immediately this song was for us. It was like the writer knew our story."
And that story continues to unfold as Crabb's career continues to reach new heights. In 2012, he toured more than 150 dates; released "Together Again" (Gaither Music Group) with The Crabb Family; appeared regularly internationally on TV; performed on Marie Osmond's Hallmark Channel Show "Marie"; prepared to make his film debut in the movie "Inspiration Pop"; contributed the theme song to the film "Finding Faith"; co-hosted the GMA Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and appeared several times on Fox News Network.
He also was able to participate in Nashville's annual Bella Bash supporting The Angel Wings Foundation, Nashville's annual The Bridge to Christmas event as well as a Christmas benefit concert alongside Sandi Patty in New York that benefited the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Also last year, Crabb was awarded with not only the Artist of the Year Award at the GMA Dove Awards but also the Male Vocalist of the Year Award in addition to the Soloist of the Year Award at the NQC Music Awards.
Friday's concert at The Aud begins at 7 p.m.; tickets are $10 in advance (www.GreatPassionPlay.org/special-events.html) or $12 at the door. For more information, call 800-882-7529.