Maturity is something that should develop naturally. Some try to force themselves to adjust while others opt to never grow up, for example: Peter Pan, Benjamin Button, and Hawk Nelson. Leeland arrived on the music scene five years ago and they exploded with a sound of melodies that blew away listeners. Following their debut success they continued to garner attention with their second and third releases all the while maturing lyrically and musically. With their latest release, The Great Awakening, they are taking their gutsiest stride and have produced not just a good thing... but a great thing.
The album opens with the catchy title track, "The Great Awakening." Piano pop and joyful lyrics flow through the song as Leeland inspires the Church to spread the good news throughout their towns. With clever word play Leeland sings, "One man wakes, awakens another. Second one wakes his next door brother. Three awake and rouse a town and turn the whole place upside down." Following this borderline bubbly opening song is the serious and convicting "All Over the Earth." The track lasts an intimidating 8 minutes and 38 seconds. Honestly, it feels like the song began as a prayer and turned into a worship anthem. It is not the most creative lyrically or melodically, but the honesty and passion behind it create such an impact that by the end of the song you wish that it could last forever.
"Chains Hit the Ground" introduces the theme of liberty that is found in a life lived for Jesus. Singing about freedom in the Lord can sometimes be overdone, or rather under-done, as some artists focus on the fact that we don't have to be who we once were. Leeland's words aren't just about being free from who we were but that we are now meant to cling to Jesus and become more like Him. "Pages" and "Not Afraid Anymore" echo this theme with more of a reflective tone, building off of the freedom they receive while producing fruit in their personal lives and sharing that love with others. These songs sing of evangelism but it sounds as if revolution is the goal.
Tackling a new style is the beautiful "I Wonder." If you've ever wanted to hear Leeland try southern gospel you will find it here. Harmonically and musically it is a masterpiece as the song simply ponders the majesty of our Creator. But along with that admiration, Leeland offers the truth that seeing the Lord should transform us in the challenging "While We Sing." This doesn't just address the personal Christian but the local Church, especially as Leeland sings, "Church arise, arise and shine, shake yourself from the dust. God is calling us to go." It's a great reminder that Jesus wasn't inviting His church to go... He was commanding it to.
Bringing the album to a climactic and gorgeous ending is another anthemic worship experience in "Unending Songs." This could honestly be a song that worship leaders have been searching for that is easy enough for a congregation to sing but carries the depth that tends to be lacking in many modern corporate worship songs.
Maturity should come naturally; unfortunately for many it takes years and years, however with direction and wise guidance it can arrive rather quickly. Leeland has proven to be a band that embraced the maturity of not just worshiping in spirit and truth but also in the way they present the gospel through music. If they were looking to spark a great awakening in the church... this album could very well be the beautiful sound of the alarm clock.
- Review date: 9/18/11; PReview date: 8/8/11, written by Ryan Barbee of Jesusfreakhideout.com