Review: Karen Peck and New River – Reach Out

This is the latest release from Karen Peck and New River, and it is the first to feature newest member, Jeff Hawes. Hawes joins Karen Peck Gooch and Susan Peck Jackson to complete the vocal trio. Reach Out is due to be released around the middle of July.


  1. Mighty Big God – From the husband and wife songwriting team of Jimmy Yeary and Sonya Isaacs, the album starts with this driving, midtempo song featuring Karen Peck Gooch on the verses. Karen is one of the elite vocalists in this genre and shows why on this song. There’s also some really interesting harmonies on the bridge. The tag has some neat vocals in a round. Great start to the album! 9/10
  2. On The Banks Of The Promised Land – The first single off the project is this song written by Jason Dyba, David Moffitt, and Sue C. Smith. It has a bit of a bluegrass midtempo feel. Karen again has the melody. There’s some nice, smooth harmonies on the chorus and a bit of a march type rhythm to the song that works well at drawing the listener in and getting the toes tapping. The second verse features a really nice duet with Karen and Jeff Hawes. The lead-in to the final chorus gets me every time I listen. This is a great choice for a radio cut as it is incredibly catchy. It’s one of my favorites on the album. 9.5/10
  3. Love With All Your Heart – Written by Sonya Isaacs, Becky Isaacs Bowman, and Steven Dale Jones, this song again features Karen and is a midtempo country-pop blend. The chorus has the word “love” being sustained while moving through several chord changes before finishing with the rest of the song’s title. It’s another really catchy tune that has a lyric that reminds the listener to love at all costs and to esteem others as greater than yourself. This would make another good radio tune that could see some crossover radio play if submitted to mainstream country. 9/10
  4. Sustaining Grace – Marcia Henry has written several big songs for the trio, and this is her latest cut by the group. Susan Peck Jackson takes the lead on this ballad. While Susan doesn’t have the polished tones of her sister, her voice carries that atmosphere of purity and genuineness that really conveys the message of a song well. Lyrically there’s a nice message here that God may not always remove obstacles in our way, but will sustain us as we go through them. There’s some really nice harmonies in the chorus. 8.5/10
  5. Good Things Are Happening – This is a really bouncy song written by Wayne Haun and Sonya Isaacs. Once again featuring Karen Gooch, this is another highlight of the recording. There’s a light pop feel to the song with some nice harmony and chord progressions sprinkled all throughout the song. You’ll find yourself singing this song in your head over and over. It’s a great, encouraging lyric that follows up the last song well. Karen’s performance here is fabulous. Great song! 10/10
  6. This Is What Mercy Does – Jeff Hawes gets his first feature on this ballad by Kenna West and Twila McBride-Labar. Hawes comes from a Contemporary Christian background, and that comes through in his vocal stylings on this track. He has a emotive, powerful voice that carries this song expertly. Karen and Susan need to hang on to him, Jeff has a world of potential. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this released to radio as well, it’s a great message, great track, and incredible performance. Another pick. 10/10
  7. More Than Ever – This is the same song that was recorded several years ago by the Gaither Vocal Band. It was written by Bill and Gloria Gaither along with Woody Wright. KPNR has kept the Celtic feel of the song, right down to the penny whistle (contributed by Sam Levine). Karen takes the lead that was previously David Phelps’ and does a fine job. They change up the arrangement just enough to make the song a little fresher. It’s a solid version, but I prefer the original by the GVB. 8/10
  8. Don’t Worry About The Waves – Written by Lyn Rowell and Wendy Wills, this mid to uptempo song features Karen again singing the first verse in a lower register than I’m used to hearing Karen sing in. Jeff Hawes joins for the second verse before the trio sings the chorus. Another solid, catchy tune. 8/10
  9. The Faithful Love Of Jesus – Susan Peck Jackson gets her second feature on this country/pop styled ballad written by Don Poythress, Karyn Rochelle and Barry Dean. Susan does a good job carrying both verses solo. The trio really has a nice sound when she carries the melody with Karen and Jeff surrounding her with harmonies. 8.5/10
  10. Broken Into Beautiful – Written by Chad Cates, Sue C. Smith, and Gwen Smith, this is a gorgeous ballad that features Karen Peck Gooch. The song starts with just piano and strings behind Karen’s vocal. There are just some light harmonies from Jeff and Susan on the last chorus with Karen still way out front in the mix. It’s a great song that really allows Karen to shine. It’s a stunningly beautiful song. 10/10
  11. Reach Out And Touch – Diana Ross’ hit from the pens of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson closes out the disc with Karen singing the first verse, Susan taking the melody on the chorus. Jeff Hawes sings the second verse, with the melody jumping up to Karen for the following choruses. This is KPNR’s foray into a black gospel sound, and they do it well. Jeff Hawes does an especially great job on his solo feature. This one ends the album on a high note (literally!). 9/10

Overall: 9 Though this is Jeff Hawes’ first recording with Karen Peck and New River, you’d never guess it. His voice fits with Karen Gooch and Susan Jackson like a glove, and he sounds like he’s been there for years. Karen has been one of our top female vocalists for quite a while now, and this album is just another shining example of why that is the case. Karen and Susan have been singing together as New River for about 20 years now, and have the blend and familiarity with each other’s vocal tendencies that you would expect, especially from sisters. Wayne Haun served as producer and lends his usual golden touch to the recording. The song selection is strong, the lyrics present a timely message, the musical arrangements are great, the production very slick and commercial, and the performances are fantastic. Karen Peck and New River have garnered a lot of attention recently with Grammy nominations for SG, and this one may follow suit. It’s a great album that is definitely worth picking up when it releases in a few weeks. Fantastic job by all involved!


About Wes Burke
I'm a .NET developer and Southern Gospel music fan. Married with a wonderful family.

2 Responses to Review: Karen Peck and New River – Reach Out

  1. Jimmy and Sonya Isaacs? 🙂

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