Rebecca St. James is back with a bang!
April 2011 is a special month for her for two reason: at 33 she is getting married for the first time, and she is releasing her first studio album in five years. This 10-song album is easily accessible and filled with upbeat and meaningful worship songs.
- I Will Praise You
- You Never Let Go
- Shine Your Glory Down
- You Still Amaze Me
- In a Moment
- The Kindness of our God
- When The Stars Burn Down (Blessing and Honor)
- Almighty God
- You Hold Me Now
- You Make Everything Beautiful
The album opens with three powerful songs, each underscoring the subtheme of fearing no evil. "I will praise you," the title track and first of her new songs, communicates the message of living in hope, not fear, even in the middle of the storms of life. It sets the tone and draws the listener in immediately. We are worshipping an awesome God from the get-go. The second track, "You Never Let Go," is a cover of a Matt Redman song. Catchy and foot-tapping, this song will be familiar to many. It emphasizes God's perfect love which casts out fear. The third track is her current single, "Shine Your Glory Down," another of her creations. Of all the songs on this album, here her breathy voice is reminiscent of earlier albums. (You can hear the first three tracks at her listening party website: http://rsjames.com/listeningparty .)
If the album opens with worship, "Shine Your Glory Down" moves toward mission. Rebecca wrote this and wants to make an impact on the world for God and to shine for him. By being a light where we are placed, we can make a difference in the world; by loving the people around us with his love we can have an impact for his glory. And then "every heart will sing your praise."
After the pacing of this opening trilogy, the album slows down, becoming hauntingly melodic in places, although without diminishing in praise or worship. "You Still Amaze Me," another St. James song, has echoes, lyrically, back to "Amazing Grace".
The fourth song written by her, "The Kindness of God," offers a vehicle to show her vocal range. This track has a distinctive celtic sound, reminding me a little of the old hymn, "Be Thou My Vision." Here the love of God comes out as a second subtheme of the album, and it is this love which casts out fear and forms the bedrock for trust and surrender.
As the album moves through its second half, the songs get gentler and quieter, more worshipful and personal. "You Hold Me Now" looks ahead to the day when we will lock eyes with Jesus as he holds us close in heaven: "all my fears swept away in the light of your embrace."
The closing song, "You Make Everything Beautiful" is sung to piano and keyboard alone. With no percussion or guitars, this feels intimate. Having written it, St James is singing this as a personal prayer to God and we get to listen in, almost as eavesdroppers. A prayer of trust, she sings "in its time, in your time." Not the best song on the album, yet it is a fitting close to the album. This serenity prayer surrenders to God, "purify my soul, beautify my soul," a prayer we all can affirm and grasp.
The wait was worth it. In his time God has gifted her with some terrific music and this will certainly be one of the best albums of the year. We'll be singing these songs in church before she celebrates her first anniversary!
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