Some artists come and go, fade from memory almost as quickly as they spring up. Then there are those musicians who stick with you long after their last notes sound. Nichole Nordeman is such a songwriter and musician. If she never wrote another song, she had certainly left her mark on the CCM industry with songs like "To Know You," "River God," "Small Enough," "What If," "Every Season," "Holy," "I Am," and "Brave." She has left a mark so deep that a twelve-year gap between full-length releases only somehow serves to make her even better. She makes her grand re-entrance with Every Mile Mattered. She delivers each song with hopeful encouragement to believers that every moment of your life matters. However, nothing here comes across as trite or cliché; it comes from a place of depth that only experience can inform. She delivers it all with her trademark poetic lyrics, piano flourishes, and modern percussion that complement each other well.
There are highlights all throughout this album and there's no better place to start than the title track "Every Mile Mattered," "It's history/You can't rewrite it/You're not meant to be trapped inside it/Every tear brought you here/Every sorrow gathered/Yeah, it's history/And every mile mattered." The bridge of the second track "You're Here" is a moving realization that the very air we breathe carries the presence of God, "You're still in my story, when my tears fall on the dirt/You're there in the morning, wrapping grace around what hurts/I believed in my worst fear/But You were never moving closer, You were only always here!" Probably the most impactful song is the epic build of "Dear Me," which lovingly and firmly calls out the church to love as Jesus did. She does this in the form of a letter to her younger self, saying from the future that things are not as simple as she once thought. This song is begging to be a rousing concert closer, with lyrics of lament like, "Do you remember now the things I said I thought that I deserved/My flag, and safety, a place to learn/The things I know I didn't earn/And bless their hearts, I'm sure it's hard/But handouts don't help anyone/And all the talk about the system/I sure hope someone can fix them/I said those things."
Other songs of note are the tender ballad "Lean," the string soaked song "Hush Hush," the upbeat but somewhat repetitive "Listen to Your Life," and the whispered cover of U2's "Beautiful Day." The latter's hushed and subdued mood is a completely different feel than the stadium rock of the original, and it fits the overall theme of the album well. The only song likely to skip upon repeat listens is album closer "Slow Down." This version of the song comes with the most minor of quibbles; though there is nothing terribly wrong with the duet with a child (in this case, her daughter, Pepper), it came across to this reviewer as distracting.
In addition to this fine album, Nichole has this beautiful sentiment about the Church to say in a blog post on her website titled, "You're Here." It's a refreshingly balanced endorsement of the Church and couldn't come at a more needed time, "I will always point people to the church. I believe deeply in beautiful, messy, flawed and faithful community. I believe deeply in the safety and support we offer one another there. But I will also always point people to Jesus, who can often be found outside the city gates, as he has always been found. Sitting and walking and eating and listening to people who do not feel they belong in those pews, and maybe who have been told as much." This is a breath of fresh air to a world and a church that both need to hear messages of healing and hope. Every Mile Mattered is a necessary listen for all fans of piano driven, lyrically poetic music that challenges the status quo. Nichole Nordeman returns to deliver another great one, and it's not to be missed!
- Review date: 7/26/17, written by Josh Balogh of Jesusfreakhideout.com