For the sake of honesty, I’m reviewing these two CDs because I am friends with their creators. I admit that – to a degree – I may be biased by the fact that I personally love the hearts behind these songs. That said, I truly believe that – whether or not I knew either one – I would still consider these two of my favorite worship CDs of 2011.
Highlights: “I am not the Same”, “Sovereign over Us”, “Song of Moses”, “Dwell”, & “Lavish Your Love”
I vividly remember when I first heard Chris Tomlin’s newly released CD “Not to Us”. Up to that point, apart from a couple “worship hits”, Tomlin’s catalogue had been pretty pedestrian, yet out of the blue he released a CD from which I used no less than 7 songs corporately, & which was a trend-setter production-wise for the next several years. Enter “Dwell” by Aaron Keyes.
Don’t get me wrong, Aaron has written a few very powerful songs in the past: “You never cease to amaze Me” was a great high energy praise song, “Psalm 62” – co-written with Stuart Townend – was one of the better modern hymns written in the past 10 years, & “Not Guilty Anymore” turned me into a teary-eyed mess the first 10 or 20 times I heard it. But Aaron’s first two CDs are world’s away from what I found here.
“Dwell” as a CD is a wonderful sonic hybrid of mainstream modern worship, like Chris Tomlin & Matt Redman, with elements of European techno and electronica, and even – at times – folk. It sounds surprisingly fresh, but not so strange as to be off-putting.
There are no less than 9 sure-fire corporate home-runs here – yes, you heard me right – 9 – unheard of for most modern worship releases. The songwriting is of such a high caliber that it’s actually hard to pick favorites. The lyrics are unquestionably Biblical – you could lead mulit-week Bible studies from some of these – the production is crisp, and the playing energetic & tight. Honestly, I haven’t heard anything else like it – it’s that good.
If I had to pick favorites, my top 5 (for corporate use, especially) would be:
- “I am not the Same” – co-written with members of Unhindered & Matt Redman – is an unforgettable anthem, & immediately contagious. This song originated as part of the song “Breathe” from Grace Midtown’s live worship CD, & the chorus has stuck with me ever since.
- “Sovereign over Us” is one of the best Biblical portraits of our huge God that I’ve ever heard, & has great radio potential as well.
- “Song of Moses” – co-written with Chris Moerman, Unhindered, & Graham Kendrick – is the greatest modern hymn since Kristian Stanfill led the re-invigorated “Jesus Paid it All” at Passion several years back.
- “Dwell”, the title tracks, is a beautiful keys-driven Scripture ballad.
- “Lavish your Love” – co-written, again, with the boys from Unhindered – is a youthful fist-pumping techno romp. It’s my kids favorite song on the CD!
- Others I’d consider using corporately: “O my Soul”, “Only Just Begun”, “Raised me Up” & “Every Knee will Bow”.
It’s not often that a CD like this comes around: if you’re skeptical, download my highlights, grab the charts, & see. These are songs that will be with us for years to come. Thanks Aaron!
Highlights: “Sons & Lovers”, “Crash this Place”, “Only You”, & “Prone to Wander”
I met David at the U2 360 show in Atlanta & discovered his music by swapping CDs. Needless to say, after hearing his I was embarrassed. David is a very anointed, first-class worship creative who is not happy staying comfortably in one place – not one to tread the same ground – always pushing forward into new territory.
David is the worship pastor – interestingly enough – at Aaron’s father’s church in Greenville, yet he also travels, leading worship at large camps and conferences around the country. His last CD, “Closer than the Angels”, featured co-writes with John Mark McMillian, & Ronnie Freeman, and – though a modern-rock worship CD – had significant americana influences. Not one to repeat himself, “Songs of Sons and Lovers” is a very different release.
Recorded in Redding, CA with some key Bethel/Jesus Culture components, “Songs…” is significantly more atmospheric, & loud, with a consistent theme running throughout of intimacy with the Father and our identity in Him. Though it’s not nearly as “corporate-accessible” as Keyes’ latest, there are many very powerful moments here for personal worship, and a few corporate gems to boot as well.
As a worship leader, I immediately looked up the chord chart for “Prone to Wander” – a beautiful ballad inspired by the traditional hymn from which that line comes (“Come Thou Fount“). My other corporate pick would also be the obvious radio single, “Only You”, which has almost a late-70s/early-80s pop feel that further inspires joy when singing – I can hardly make it through the opening riff of this song without smiling! Though I wouldn’t likely use these corporately in my current worship environments, “Sons & Lovers” – an intense, toms driven, mid-tempo song – and David rockin’ cover of Morningstar’s “Crash this Place” are also highlights.
Most of all, when listening to “Songs…” I hear not only a great CD, but also continued promise – these songs are great, but following the trajectory from his last CD to this one, and knowing the heart behind them, I expect even greater things in the future. Looking forward to hearing more from him, indeed.
So, there you have it: my two favorite worship CDs of 2011 so far. Be encouraged to download the highlights, and – if you’re a worship leader – grab the charts from their websites, and get familiar with Aaron Keyes and David Walker. I think you’ll be glad you did.