Life is full of choices, and for new Provident artist Moriah Peters, it took a few challenging ones to lead her where she is today. At nineteen, the California native has already auditioned for American Idol, opened for MercyMe before a crowd of thousands, and dug into full-time college while nurturing a budding musical career. With a few years of musical experience behind her and a contagious faith and joy driving her forward, Peters is ready to bloom in her buoyant full-length debut, I Choose Jesus.
Rather than take a teen-oriented approach, I Choose Jesus is a radiant album that pairs youthful optimism with a musical maturity reminiscent of Francesca Battistelli's debut. Peters grew up on jazz and soul, and perhaps it's that musical influence that has contributed to her clear, strong vocal delivery. Her songs could be described as somewhere between Jamie Grace's airy acoustic cheer and Francesca Battistelli's soulful vocals, equally adept at big ballads, subdued acoustic tunes, and singable pop melodies.
The lead single, "I Choose Jesus," makes a big impression and establishes the lyrical theme of the album, but honestly, it's the brighter moments where Peters really shines. "Know Us By Our Love," a song dedicated to her mother's generosity with "nothing but a heart of gold / and a trailer home" sets the mood with a sunny ukelele and a singable chorus. "Well Done" follows up, bursting into a clap-along gospel party by the end, "Sing in the Rain" is like bottled sunshine with its sprightly piano melody, and gentler tunes like "We Haven't Even Kissed" and "No Shame" take a jazz-influenced turn. No matter the material, her voice handles it with smoothness and skill and invites the listener to experience the source of her joy.
Peters co-wrote every song on the album, so they all feel true to the things most important to her. They are clearly born from a teen's life experience, dealing with themes that should connect with young girls: purity in relationships, encouragement to "Glow" and "Bloom," and choosing to live boldly for Christ. A variety of veteran songwriters like Ben Glover, Cindy Morgan, and Ed Cash no doubt lend an experienced touch to help the songs navigate this ground in a way that is both encouraging to young believers and accessible to older audiences. There is still room for her to grow as far as deeper, more personal songwriting goes, but as a pop record, these make a delightful introduction and let her personality shine.
There is no question at all where Moriah Peters stands in I Choose Jesus. Beneath the pop shimmer and her lovely singing is an earnest collection of songs driven by an intentional, confident message. Proclaiming her faith and encouraging others spiritually is the goal from the start, but the message-heavy nature of the songs doesn't detract from their feel-good, catchy quality. Fans of soulful and summery pop music should find plenty to love in Peters' debut and a promising career that can only grow from here.
- Review date: 4/15/12, written by Jen Rose of Jesusfreakhideout.com