Music, so often, has been used as a way to make emotion tangible. It can encourage, discourage, comfort or dislodge people in ways simple words cannot. Matt Hammitt, Sanctus Real frontman, is releasing his debut album with plenty of emotion binding it together. Last year, Matt and Sarah Hammitt had to battle through the dolor of wondering whether or not their unborn child was going to survive. During an ultrasound they discovered their son, Bowen, had something called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Essentially, he was going to be born with half of a heart. Thankfully, the story has a happy ending and Bowen is safe at home with his parents (and celebrates his one-year birthday before this album's release!). The songs on Every Falling Tear were written as a means of coping for Matt through these difficult times. Having knowledge of Matt's story adds a layer of depth to each song and makes a seemingly ordinary praise album much richer.
To eliminate a few presuppositions you may have about Matt Hammitt's debut: it is more encouraging than depressing and it sounds vastly different than a Sanctus Real album. The songs are very calm, usually driven by a piano or an acoustic guitar. Most of the tracks do not include direct references to Matt's son, allowing them to be borrowed and applied to the listener's own personal struggles. "Let Go" is a perfect example of this, with its contrasting of God's complete control with our limitations, "I want to hold on 'cause I'm afraid, And I didn't ask for it to be this way, Somehow I found myself caught in the grey, Reaching out for fear, running out of faith." This track, co-written by Joy Williams, is one of the strongest songs on the album. Unfortunately, the majority of the other songs do not reach this uniqueness from a lyrical standpoint. The imagery used is standard fare for a modern praise album, sticking mostly with direct statements or commonplace metaphors. However, Matt makes up for the lyrical drawbacks with passionate vocals and consistently impressive musicianship throughout.
The best songs on the album are actually the ones that are slightly less vague and are harder to separate from Matt's experience. "All of Me," the first track, is possibly the best of the ten found here. The vulnerability of Matt's words makes it almost feel intrusive to listen to and is incredibly powerful, "Afraid to love, Something that could break, Could I move on, If you were torn away, And I'm so close, To what I can't control, I can't give you half my heart, And pray He makes you whole." The second track, "Holding You," continues to pull straight from the situation with Bowen. The song puts the listener in the minds of Matt and Sarah, showing the frustration and helplessness they felt.
Audrey Assad contributes one song to this album as well. "Little Light" fits in seamlessly with Matt Hammitt's vocals and the album's sound, "Jesus bends to hear you breathe, His tender hands are holding you tonight, His heart is ravished when you look at Him, And oh the endless mercy in His eyes, God is here, little light."
When all the dust settles, you can't help but come away from Every Falling Tear feeling reassured. Even the simple act of empathizing with Matt Hammitt's ordeal is painful, but his insistence that Christ will prevail is uplifting and encouraging. While the lyrics sometimes feel redundant, the strong emotional core and musical merit help balance things out.
- Review date: 7/9/11, written by Jerold Wallace of Jesusfreakhideout.com