Bible Belt Blues - 'Soften My Hardened Heart'
Updated: Feb 24
Review by Patrick Joseph & Sylvie Marie
“Soften my Hardened Heart” immediately jumps to life with a simmering energy. The rawness of the production gives this song a timeless feeling. The guitar, played by Harold Vega Vondenstein, seems to wind down an unpredictable path, occasionally rising up and striking in dynamic peaks. Harold's vocal track is soulful and honest, delivering the song’s message to the heavens. The combination of the guitar’s twang and the smooth vocal delivery creates a hypnotizing sound, making it hard to turn away from the song.
The arrangement of “Soften My Hardened Heart” masterfully highlights the song’s lyrics. A fresh take on the timeless blues form, this song utilizes unique “turnaround” harmony, adding a new dimension to the song. The interaction between guitar and vocal melodies is seamless. Listeners will love the way that the guitar alternatively keeps time and delivers melodic spontaneity. “Soften My Hardened Heart” will put you in a trance and leave you feeling refreshed after hearing the song’s soulful message.
The vision, lyrics, and production of "Soften My Hardened Heart" were conceived by Paula Vega Vondenstein. The song is a unique invitation that focuses on salvation. Paula turns the table on the word "preparation." Signature to her writing style, Paula helps listeners stop and think about their preconceived ideas. When most of us prepare for something, we add things onto our plate. To prepare for guests, we do extra grocery shopping. To prepare for an event, we buy tickets and perhaps a new fancy outfit. To prepare for retirement, we save money. But how do we prepare for our salvation? Listen to the lyrics:
Soften my hardened heart To hear Your voice, Lord Strip me of my pride and selfish ways Remove from me all sin and rebellion Prepare my heart to receive my Salvation Such a precious gift.
Paula starts with an invitation to soften one's heart. It's difficult to receive good news and love when your heart is scornful. The lyrics share that salvation doesn't come from adding more onto your material plate. Doesn't that sound like a relief? We live in a world where most of us are focused on accumulation. Paula's lyrics demonstrate that salvation comes from a place that makes room for the Lord by subtracting from your cup of pride, selfishness, sin and rebellion. Emptying one's cup makes room for the Lord to fill it. "Empty my cup that overflows with me. Fill my cup to overflow with You. These biblically sound lyrics may seem counterintuitive in a culture that is obsessed with "filling up the cup." But in the last sentence, Paula brings it home with the beautiful line, "Let my cup overflow with You. Not only is the cup full, it is overflowing. By making room for the Lord, you will receive more than you ever imagined. In addition, the lyrics flow like prayer. Listeners can sing along or pray.
At first listen, you may find that Bible Belt Blues flips your belief systems upside down. Through bold writing and arranging, Bible Belt Blues invites you to think and act differently, and in "Soften My Hardened Heart' it all starts with emptying your cup.
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Harold and Paula Vega Vondenstein are Bible Belt Blues, an award winning husband and wife Gospel Blues duo from Gulfport, Mississippi. Their music is both fresh and original with its musical roots distinctly early Mississippi Bentonia blues with a bit of 70’s retro mixed in for good measure. Their lyrics are bold and biblically sound like nothing you have ever heard on Christian radio or in churches these days. Known for their full-fledged repentance and church revival songs, the Vondensteins, of Bible Belt Blues, has already won several prestigious music awards including the 2019 Josie Music Award for Gospel/Christian Duo, the 2020 W.A.M. Music Award for Best Lyrics for Gospel/Christian Song, and the 2020 InterContinental Music Awards for Finalist for Gospel/Christian-America for two of their songs. Their music has charted numerous times on the Roots Music Report and has placed on WNIR Radio’s Top 10 Chart for eleven consecutive months during 2020. They were also the inspiration behind the creation of WNIR Radio’s new Christian program, “Spirit & Soul.” With extensive media coverage, twenty six of their songs having already received radio airplay, and the signing of eight of their songs with Bongo Boy Records with four compilation albums during the past six months, the Vondensteins have a lot to be excited about. Bible Belt Blues have released two Christian albums, “I’m Not Ashamed to Be a Christian” and “My God, My God” which they produced in their own home recording studio, and are currently working on their 3rd album. The Vondensteins live in Gulfport, Mississippi with their three Chihuahuas, CoCo, Cody, and Casey and their cat, Charlie.
For more information on Bible Belt Blues, visit their website.