For Meredith Andrews, music has been a constant thread in her life, even if it wasn't her initial career choice. She found her start singing in church at six years old, and over the years, continued to develop her music there, leading student worship at Liberty University while planning to work in an orphanage after graduation. However, music proved to be her calling, and she accepted a job at Harvest Church in Chicago before eventually signing to Word Records. Two years after the release of her debut, The Invitation, she's back with As Long As It Takes, a piano-based pop worship project that follows in the tradition of her debut.
Andrews' music ministry background is evident all through her earlier work, and her sophomore album is no exception. Her church-friendly sound draws comparisons to Darlene Zschech or Laura Story, but it's her lyrics and voice that take center stage. Every song is co-written by Andrews, and her voice is strong and clear to handle the most powerful choruses. As a whole, it's a pleasant listening experience, but it's also mostly standard worship fare.
"Never Move On" opens with a sound that would fit right into a Sunday morning playlist. It's not a standout track, but it's a nice opener to set the pace for the rest of the album, and "Only to be Yours" follows suit. But the first true highlight and surprise comes in "Can Anybody Hear Me," a ballad that shows off her vocal power and edges toward more personal songwriting. Questioning God's apparent silence in the face of pain -- "why do you feel so far away?" -- is an unexpected moment for her genre, even though it takes a positive turn by affirming in the same breath "I just need the faith to see / Nothing can separate me from Your love." Though the "are you there, God?" theme isn't exactly unheard of in Christian music, it's a welcome touch of vulnerability to keep this from feeling like a batch of corporate worship songs.
The music doesn't deviate too much from the safety of pop-praise, but there is an especially pretty moment in "All Will Fade Away," a hushed ballad that lets the softer side of her voice and piano melodies shine through until building to a dramatic peak and closing with a quiet chorus that would be lovely in a live setting. A bit of musical variety shows up in "Live Through Me," which features a sprightly little piano intro backed by strings and a drum beat that just barely borders on a dance vibe. It wakes up the latter half of the album's worship ballad tendencies with a catchy pop edge.
Honestly, it's hard to draw a conclusion about this album. The songs are pretty, Andrews' voice is right on, and the fact that she writes her own songs is a big bonus. Fans of her earlier work and other artists in this style should find plenty to love about her latest collection. But there's not really a whole lot of change either. Andrews' music could benefit from pushing her sound further, or perhaps trying some more personal lyric writing. Still, it's a good album, and there's something to say for staying true to one's roots. As Long As It Takes may not be groundbreaking, but listeners will find Andrews' heartfelt praise hard not to like.- Review date: 2/28/10, written by Jen Rose of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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