If there's one thing that connects most interpretations of hymns like “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” from your local church's dutiful recitation to this rapturous show-stopping turn by the Blind Boys of Mississippi, it's a sense of wonder and awe. In this light, Phil Cook's take on this hymn from a digital “seven-inch split” might seem to come up short. Cook doesn't have the transcendent type of voice that can inspire spiritual conversion, and his Band-like (or Megafaun-like, if you prefer) banjo-and-piano arrangement here lacks a similar oomph.
But what Cook & friends do bring to this song is a sense of fellowship and camaraderie, the same sense echoed by the mission statement of The Gathering Church, the organization for whom this song was recorded: “Our primary aims are to be present to God in our worship, connected to each other in our relationships, and engaged in loving and serving the world.” The notion of putting one's faith in a higher power to provide the strength to overcome any obstacle is a fine one to promote. But sign me up for any church that puts having faith in your fellow man first and foremost.