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Worship leader Todd Agnew’s latest CD, “Reflections of Something,” offers a mixture of blues, funk and rock.
Worship leader Todd Agnew’s latest CD, “Reflections of Something,” offers a mixture of blues, funk and rock. (Courtesy of the Media Collective)

Jeremiah and Job definitely had the blues. And even King David faced some tough times. A soundtrack of the Bible would certainly have room for some Memphis-style blues.

Worship leader Todd Agnew taps that vein with his second album “Reflection of Something.” He also offers some funk and rock in a disc that takes a hard look at the laments and heavy warnings laid out in the middle books of the Bible, which are usually ignored by today’s songwriters.

Modern worship leaders generally focus on themes of salvation, repentance or God’s glory. Overall, they lean toward lyrics that are triumphant, awe-filled, joyful or generally positive. However, Agnew bravely explores the dark nature of sin and sorrow and comes up with a reflection of something that isn’t always appealing.

The disc starts off promisingly enough with the funk-accented “Something Beautiful,” which explains that God’s love can’t be earned through doing good deeds; it’s a gift.

However, the problems become evident on the second track, “New Name,” in which Agnew belts out that he was broken, worthless and ashamed “but you made me your child and called me your own.” This is classic worship territory covered in countless songs of thanks and praise. However, Agnew covers it with a bluesy style that doesn’t sound thankful in the least. That’s followed by the guilt-laden “Blood on My Hands.”

The songs that work the best are those that lean a little closer to established patterns. For example, “Unchanging One” — which slipped into the Christian radio charts at No. 26 last week — is a more traditional praise song about God’s nature and his love. And “Isaiah 6” lifts a few lines from the classic “Holy, Holy, Holy” in its praise.

The only song that really approaches the heights Agnew reached in his debut disc — “Grace Like Rain” — is “Where Were You.” This track fits the disc’s theme quite well, but the blend of music and message works much more effectively than in other songs. It’s all-powerful vocals and raw energy as it throws out some tough questions in the face of difficult trials — but goes on to acknowledge God’s power and wisdom.

That’s followed by “Fullness Found,” which explores the vanity and lies described in the Book of Ecclesiastes. It’s a mellower tune that exudes humility and hope.

Then, “My Jesus” puts today’s Christians under some tough scrutiny. It asks why so many church-goers act as greedy, proud and unfriendly as anyone else. It also complains that “my Jesus would never be accepted at my church. The blood and dirt on his feet might stain the carpet.” These certainly are accusations that ring true. However, the tone is so heavy, it comes off as condescending. The song actually seems to suffer from the same sort of self-righteousness that it criticizes.

The disc wraps up with a version of the old standard “It Is Well.” It’s a song about the peace God can give when times are tough. However, Agnew’s anguish-filled delivery doesn’t sound like that of a man who’s found peace.

Overall, Agnew’s gravelly voice is perfect for the weighty musical style of “Reflection of Something.” Unfortunately, the blues doesn’t really serve the Bible’s message of hope particularly well. Even Jeremiah capped his laments and dire warnings with encouragement and hope. Agnew’s disc is heavy on the warning, lament and bad news and a little too short of the good news.

On the Web:www.toddagnew.com.

Today’s Praise is a roundup of news and reviews from the contemporary Christian music industry. It appears on the Religion page.

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