"The theme and the message of the songs is directed toward the prison population," said Dean from his Cascade-area home.
"We're addressing their needs, hurts and challenges to encourage them and hopefully bring them peace."
"Faithful" is the title of the new collection, released in January. Dean self-produced the project and co-wrote the songs with his wife Janae. They've been ministering to prisons and correctional facilities regularly for the past five years.
All of the album's vocals were recorded in Dean's home studio while instrumentals were tracked by session musicians in Nashville.
"I know a number of players down there," he smiled, recalling work on his previous solo efforts.
One of the anchor pieces of the album is the ballad "Create In Me A Clean Heart," an interpretation of Psalm 51's confessional theme. See the song's lyric video (with photography from Janae) online.
Using a mixture of styles and keeping an eye toward some tunes which would work well in concert, Dean included selections with titles suggesting their messages: "Everything's Gonna Be Alright," "Merciful God," and "Free."
The Deans have been nearly full-time visiting and performing in prisons and other correctional facilities, primarily in Michigan. But the COVID-19 virus has prevented that since March of last year. That interruption actually gave them additional time to work on the new songs.
GETTING BEHIND BARS
Dean's eyes were opened to prison ministry around a dozen years ago, when Charles Colson of the Prison Fellowship organization asked him to sing at a ministry event here in West Michigan.
"I remember a man coming in and sitting in the second row," the singer offered. "He had an angry look, and had his arms crossed like he didn't want to be there."
But by the end of one of Dean's songs ("I Surrender All") that same man was standing with arms uplifted, as if giving his life to God.
That led Dean and his wife to do some thinking and praying.
"There's a lot of music artists singing in churches," he said. "But maybe God needs us here where the harvest is ripe."
Dean's musical pedigree is solid. The New Mexico native spent the late 1980s and early '90s as part of the contemporary Christian vocal group Acappella, touring internationally and recording numerous albums.
He worked for several area non-profits before his desire to sing for audiences returned.
Dean's first solo album in 2002 featured a song that made it to the top of the Christian inspirational radio charts. Several subsequent projects also found radio success and prompted a concert ministry which kept him busy singing nationwide.
But music ministry in prisons became increasingly important. And that led to the new recording.
"People think that those in prison are a mess with no morals or values," explained the singer. "But let me tell you, there is church there – they have tremendous worship and some (prisoners) are so devoted and faithful to God it's sometimes hard to conceive."
The couple has developed good relationships with prison wardens and chaplains as well as residents. Since COVID, the Deans developed DVD material to help stay in touch.
Their prison outreach has its own related website, www.insideprisonministries.org
CLOSER TO HOME
On the home front Dean often assists with Janae's chief enterprise, Children's Creations Theater. Her theater company provides acting classes for children and teens which provide performing opportunities as well as build inner character and self-esteem.
Wayburn has more music planned – a new three-song project more appropriate for people "on the outside."
The music minister/recording artist has sung lead vocals as well as tenor over the years. As he enters his next phase of life (he's a grandfather several times over) Dean says his "pipes" are holding up well. "Actually, I feel like my voice is getting stronger, if anything," he said. "But more than that, I think God has preserved it for a greater purpose."
(If you'd like a musical taste from Wayburn Dean's Acappella group days, see an informal version of the song "Glory and Honor" recorded five years ago at a group reunion.
- Next Article: Wedgwood Hosts Discussion on Pandemic’s Effects on Families
- Prev. Article: A Cross-Cultural Worship Journey