Personnel: Fernando Ortega (piano); Ron Block (guitar, acoustic guitar, steel guitar, nylon-string guitar); Buddy Miller (guitar, electric guitar, baritone guitar, mandola, mandolin); Randy Mitchell (guitar, electric guitar); Bob Soma, Bob Somma (acoustic guitar); Greg Leisz (electric guitar); Stuart Duncan (fiddle); Cameron Stone (cello); John Schreiner (accordion, piano, Fender Rhodes piano, organ, synthesizer); Dave Pilch (acoustic bass, upright bass, fretless bass); Don Heffington (drums); Dave Dillbeck, Ken Lewis (percussion).
Audio Mixer: John Schreiner.
Recording information: Jasmine Sound, Laguna Beach, CA; Studio At Mole End, Franklin, TN; The Studio at Mole End, Franklin, TN.
Photographer: Sandra Johnson.
Arrangers: Fernando Ortega; John Schreiner.
Fernando Ortega is something of a rare animal in the genre of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). Like the work of Sandi Patti, Steve Green, Karla Worley, or Bill and Gloria Gaither, The Breaking of the Dawn can easily be seen as a philosophical descendant of Psalm 95 or the music of Martin Luther. Its primary aim is not to explore human experience, or to entertain or instruct, but to extol, glorify, and exalt. The fundamental emotion it expresses is that of spiritual gratitude. But the other artists mentioned above are primarily vocal performers. The focus of their records is not so much on the quality of the musical composition as on the range and power of their singing. Not so with Ortega. Though he possesses a pleasant and smooth vocal tone, he is not a flamboyant performer. Nor does he equate musical bombast with intensity of feeling. Instead, he expresses his gratitude through a beautifully reflective brand of acoustic-based new age folk-pop with Latin and Celtic accents. John Andrew Schreiner's production is lush but reserved, striking a delicate balance between Ortega's folk and pop influences. And if Schreiner occasionally leans on CCM clich‚s, the general authenticity of the compositions is never compromised. The textured arrangements include gentle harmonies from Cathy Schreiner and Susan Ashton, sensitive fiddling by Stuart Duncan, versatile fretwork by Christian folkie Buddy Miller, and resonant piano solos by Ortega himself. This is praise music that feels uncommonly honest and unaffected. ~ Evan Cater