Today's praise: New musical spin given to ancient lyrics
Contemporary Christian music doesn’t necessarily have to be all that contemporary.
Some of today’s most popular Christian artists explored rich musical traditions and original sources to create two new worship albums.
In “Music Inspired by the Motion Picture Amazing Grace,” an eclectic mix of artists recasts a collection of familiar hymns in a variety of modern styles. In “Glory Revealed: The Word of God in Worship,” another group of artists goes for a rootsy feel as it lifts praise and worship lyrics straight from biblical passages.
The film “Amazing Grace” stars Ioan Gruffudd — Mr. Fantastic from “Fantastic Four” and Lancelot from “King Arthur” — as William Wilberforce, an evangelical Christian member of Parliament 200 years ago. He led a decadeslong struggle to end the slave trade in the British Empire. The album’s songs were selected because they had an impact on Wilberforce.
The most stirring track is Chris Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace,” written by former slave trader John Newton, who became an abolitionist and a friend of Wilberforce. The simple piano accompaniment prompts an intense focus on the powerful lyrics about God’s saving grace. The choir of Wilberforce University, a historically black school in Ohio, joins Tomlin in later verses.
Other tracks range from Steven Curtis Chapman’s acoustic version of “Holy, Holy, Holy,” to Natalie Grant’s dreamy “Fairest Lord Jesus,” to a haunting version of “Rock of Ages,” by David Crowder and Marty Stuart. One of the standouts is Nichole Nordeman’s “Just As I Am,” which offers a refined melody that’s ideal for her velvety voice.
It’s a disc that prompts meditation. Most of the songs are soft and sweet, drawing their power from the time-tested lyrics rather than wailing guitars and pounding drums. Some pop and gospel influences creep in around the edges, but the disc relies heavily on pianos and strings.
“Glory Revealed” also takes a mellow route to praise and worship. Pleasant arrangements of guitars, mandolins, strings and harmonics offer a comfortable, rootsy feel to most of the tracks.
While the lyrics of most praise music rely on Scripture to some degree, the connection is much closer in these songs. And, like the “Amazing Grace” album, the softer music permits deeper reflection on their meaning.
The best song is the radio hit “By His Wounds,” which focuses on Jesus’ sacrifice for humanity. It includes vocals from one of the driving forces behind the disc, Mac Powell of Third Day, as well as Steven Curtis Chapman, Brian Littrell and Mark Hall of Casting Crowns.
The disc offers a nice blend of voices in an intimate setting. The problem is that few tracks actually stand out, even though some of the most talented artists in Christian music contributed to the collection.
Today’s Praise is a roundup of news and reviews from the contemporary Christian music industry.