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The Return of the Martins
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What's new with the Martins? Oh, not much... except for just about everything.

A new album is set to come out on June 21, the group's first in 10 years.

A new touring season is in full swing after a lenghty hiatus.

A new producer has pushed the trio of siblings (Jonathan, Joyce and Judy) to unprecedented vocal heights—quite literally.

A new “best of” video featuring the group will be released soon.

And a new sense of hope and anticipation has permeated every corner of their lives and their music.

“It’s a whole new day for the Martins, and we’re excited about it,” Jonathan says.

What’s not so new with the Martins? Mostly this: It’s still just about impossible to pin down their “sound” or slot them into a narrow genre.

The songs on the new album, New Day, range from country-tinged to pop-leaning, from foot-stompers to Sunday-morning hymns—all, of course, rooted in the timeless truth, grace and love of the gospel message.

“We stopped trying to achieve a certain sound several albums ago,” Joyce reflects. “Now, we sing songs that speak to us, move us, and then pretty much trust the producer that God sends our way to put the songs together with a common thread."

For this album, that producer happened to be Jay Demarcus, whose roots in gospel go deep but who is most visible today as a member of country super-group, Rascal Flatts.

Even so, the lyrics on the Martins’ forthcoming record do follow that common thread, knitting together hope, encouragement and a bright-spring-morning brand of newness. The title cut in fact— “New Day”—proclaims the idea of a fresh start with close-to-home clarity.

“The idea of a ‘new day’ is really kind of where we’ve been and where we’re headed, individually and as a group,” Joyce says. “Even though we’ve been at this for so long, in our lives—spiritually, emotionally and everything—it’s all brand new for us.

“What I hope we’re able to portray is hope,” her sister Judy adds. “We’ve faced some real-life challenges in the past few years, and we are able to come out on this side knowing that all those things we’ve been singing about—and that we have believed—are more real than ever. We believed before, but we’ve got a lot more heart to believe it with now.”

If the heart coming through the music on the new record sounds more personal than ever, that’s not an accident. As Joyce puts it, “These songs, these lyrics, this truth on this album, are the tools that God used to show us how real our faith in Him is. It’s like He was saying, ‘See, it does work. You are redeemed. You will overcome. This is a new day for you.’ Life is tough sometimes, but Truth is always Truth.”

Two songs in particular—“Tell Them” and “Somebody Like Me”—delve into the Martins’ appreciation for the church, offering a strong dose of encouragement and exhortation to the body of Christ. The ballad “Tell Them” (featuring Jonathan’s tender lead vocal) shines light on “the unsung preparation for ministry that a lot of people don’t see,” he says—”quiet hours spent praying over a sermon or readying your heart to share a song with an audience.”

On the other side of the coin, “Somebody Like Me” serves as what Jonathan calls “a wake-up call to the church to be willing to welcome the ‘least of these’ into God’s kingdom. The homeless, the smelly, the down-and-out person all need that same hope that we are supposedly carrying around with us. The Lord calls all of us to do that.”

The Martins grew up in church and around ministry. “We were taught to reach out with a heart for the lost,” Judy recalls, “but going through some tough times ourselves in recent years has opened our eyes and our hearts even more. It has made us more compassionate toward people in general. Most people don’t have a clue what others are really dealing with, deep down.”

For the Martins, the road back from a long break between recording and fullscale touring began with a trickle but has become a full stream recently, thanks largely, they say, to Bill and Gloria Gaither.

“We started traveling some four or five years ago, about once a month,” Jonathan says, “but we didn’t really promote it. But when Mr. Gaither called and wanted us to do a couple last weekends of the Christmas tours, and then added other Homecoming dates, that helped us not only to get back in front of the audience, but to get our feet under us, tighten the ship, and be ready for more.”

Part of that “more” is the new album, which has been marinating for quite a while. The group began working on it four years ago, but for a number of reasons, it was only recently completed. “There were some obstacles to overcome,” Jonathan says, “but we now see that those obstacles were planned by the Lord who knew exactly the most effective time for this music to come out. We feel confi dent that now is just the right time.”

The “right time” (and place) is a familiar concept to the Martins and to listeners who have followed their music and ministry over the years. Eighteen years have now passed since the trio from Hamburg, Arkansas, was “discovered” when Mark Lowry introduced their soaring vocals to Gloria Gaither during a 1993 Homecoming event—pulling her into a restroom and insisting that she hear the siblings sing “He Leadeth Me” a capella.

“From the very first day, the Gaithers and everyone involved with Homecoming have been a huge encouragement to us,” Jonathan says. “We had been traveling full time for eight or nine years, but becoming part of Homecoming truly catapulted our ministry into the forefront of gospel music. At the same time, it’s very fi tting that through the Gaithers, we are basically being reintroduced.”

The group is quick to express an abundance of appreciation for Bill and Gloria and their role as conduits of God’s renewing work. “Bill is just a gracious person,” Jonathan says. “He knows how to pull people together in special ways that encourage the believers. To be part of that is such a blessing.”

Judy jumps in. “The word grace really does describe them. They not only preach it, but they live it. To be able to see people of that infl uence be ‘real’ and not pretend to be perfect is so refreshing. They don’t pretend. You can see who they are, their struggles as well as their strengths. They know we’re all going to fall down and have to get back up. They are real friends. I am trying to learn from them and extend that kind of grace and favor to everyone. That’s what God does for us.”

“And of course,” Joyce adds, “Bill and Gloria are both so humble about it. They have so much influence in gospel music, but they don’t make a big deal about it. They have been so kind to us, like they are to everybody. It’s great to be part of an organization that has that kind of respect all over the world.”

And it’s great, the Martins agree, to be part of a whole new day.

For other articles featuring the Martins, click here.