NPR's Rachel Martin talks to Brent Cobb about his album, And Now, Let's Turn To Page..., which is a collection of spirituals and hymns. Surviving a car crash inspired him to make the album.



Brent Cobb had his own take on hymns when he was growing up in Georgia.

BRENT COBB: One of the first songs I ever sang was in Sunday school, and it was "There's A Tear In My Beer" by Hank Williams Sr.


COBB: We were, you know...

MARTIN: I wish I'd gone to your Sunday school.

COBB: My mom was probably not the proudest.

MARTIN: Fast-forward a few decades, and the country singer is digging deep into the canon of gospel songs and hymns he grew up with.


COBB: (Singing) There's a place dear to me where I'm longing to be with my friends at the old country church.

MARTIN: Brent Cobb's new album is called "And Now, Let's Turn To Page..."

COBB: In the mornings, when you're going through the hymnal book, the person who's leading the singing will go, all right; and now let's turn to page - and, you know - 457 and do "The Old Country Church" - you know? - or whatever it is. So I don't know. I thought it was fitting for that but also because of, let's turn a chapter in this page of life - you know, where we are in the world right now.


COBB: (Singing) I am weak, but thou art strong. Keep me, Jesus, from all wrong.

MARTIN: This is Brent Cobb's recording of "Just A Closer Walk With Thee." Legends of country music have covered this one - Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Glen Campbell.

COBB: I wasn't intimidated to do it until you just listed all those names who have also recorded...


MARTIN: Sorry, man.


MARTIN: Cobb had planned to do a gospel album for years. But when he and his 1-year-old son survived a near-fatal car crash, well, he felt more urgency to put those songs out into the world.

COBB: We were going through this little rural four-way stop I've been going through my whole life. We went to pull out, and they'd never stopped. And they just T-boned us and hit my - on my side of the truck. My son was also on that side of the truck - thankfully in a rear-facing car seat. It flipped us onto our side. And then we hit the ditch.

MARTIN: Oh, my God.

COBB: And we came back up, and all the airbags deployed. And I got out and opened Tuck's door - my son. He reached up for me. He wasn't crying or anything. He was just looking like, what in the world just happened, you know (laughter)? And I could tell he was kind of OK. My collarbone was definitely broken. I didn't know if maybe my back or my hip or something - and I sort of started feeling lightheaded. So I just laid on the ground.

When something like that happens, you start thinking of how perfectly lined up everything was for that moment, you know? Like, that morning, I had to turn around and go back to the house 'cause I'd forgotten something. And I took a different route that morning. You just kind of start thinking of how everything is - I don't know if it's planned. But what are the odds of that happening at that very moment?

MARTIN: So how does a thing like that leave you?

COBB: There's this sense of, you know, maybe in one life we didn't make it in that car accident. You know what I mean? We'd just - we'd stopped right there. But then maybe we'd picked up on this other timeline. I don't want to get too out there with all that. But I don't know. You just start thinking about what - we don't really know anything. And I'd always had in the back of my mind to make a Southern gospel album. And I didn't know when I would do it. But the wreck also was like, well, anything that I think I have plans for, maybe I should just go ahead and do and quit procrastinating.


COBB: (Singing) I will cling to the old rugged cross and exchange it some day for a crown.

MARTIN: So there are all these beautiful classics on the album. But you've got one original song on the record. It's called "When It's My Time."


COBB: (Singing) I lived my life the way that I wanted. Some folks agree. Other folks don't. I believe in heaven. I believe in love. I believe it can't change the plan made above.

That was inspired by the accident. So it was inspired by a couple things. We'd do a family gathering since 1989 the day after Thanksgiving every year. And every year, my grandma always likes to be a host - you know, whoever wants to come stay at her house. She likes - she wants to, you know, like, get up and cook biscuits and gravy in the morning and stuff. And in 2020, we thought, well, maybe it's not such a good idea to, you know, put Grandma's health at risk and stay.

MARTIN: 'Cause all the COVID lockdowns, yeah.

COBB: Yeah. Right. And so Grandma, the God-fearing lady that she is - she feels like when it's her time, she's going to go. It's not up to her. With that said, nobody stayed at Grandma's house. And...


COBB: We - my wife and I - we were just sitting out on the back porch talking about the wreck and talking about Grandma. And that song sort of fell out of the sky. It wrote itself pretty quick.


COBB: (Singing) When it's my time, I'm going to go. There is no reason for me to stay. I did all the dancing that could have been done. I would have been gone anyway.

MARTIN: How's your son doing - Tuck?

COBB: He's doing great. He was completely unscathed by the wreck. He was not worried at all.

MARTIN: Has the feeling that life is ephemeral - right? - that it all could end in an instant, has that changed the way you parent at all?

COBB: Yeah. I mean, yes and no. It - I just try to make sure my kids always know to appreciate where they are in their life and who they are. We were pretty poor, you know? And my parents, both blue collar folks - and we'd started off in a single wide and then graduated to a double wide. And then now they have themselves a nice little brick home. And I don't know how to explain this. But all my friends growing up - I was the only one that had two parents that were together. Like, for some, it was a better thing that their parents split up. It was healthier, you know? For some...

MARTIN: Right. Yeah.

COBB: ...Not so much. My parents both, I believe sincerely, are pretty fond of each other. And I'm just very appreciative of where I'm at in life. I'm thankful to be sitting here with you. I'm thankful to make music for a living. And I'm just kind of - I don't know. It's been a wonderful life.

MARTIN: Brent Cobb - his new album of gospel music is called "And Now, Let's Turn To Page..."

Brent, it's been a real pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much.

COBB: You too. Thank you, Rachel, for having me.


COBB: (Singing) Oh, for the wonderful love he has promised. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.