Rays of Mercy
Street Date: June 28, 2012
Artist Website: Facebook
Buy It: Amazon.com
Rachel Frecka is a Texan-turned-Russian who got her start in music with family sing-alongs and leading worship for her church youth group. After putting her missionary journey in front of her music, she finally started writing again in 2011, and has now readied her first album, Rays of Mercy. Frecka's debut recording is a contemporary worship album that has a lot of American influence as well as influence from the different parts of the world she's visited. "Holy" is the first example of this, with somewhat of a Celtic style of music, but "Abba" comes in afterwards, and is sung entirely in Russian, as is the track "Blind," which comes closer to the album's end. It comes in as a surprise, and is a bit hard to process for those who don't speak a lick of Russian, but it's interesting to hear her incorporating her own culture into the album and truly making it her own in that aspect. Frecka offers some southern styled praise and worship music in "Praise You," with some awkward semi-spoken word at the beginning. Near the end, Frecka starts speaking as if she's speaking to a crowd, yearning to get everyone into a worshipful mood. It would be understandable if this was a live record, but it's not, so it's more awkward than anything. What I like most about Rays of Mercy is the diversity; as mentioned, Frecka uses a lot of different sounds and styles to create this album, from world music (Celtic, Russian and the Spanish rhythm of "You Alone") to common American praise music (such as "Come" and "Live In Me"). It's pretty rare to find a contemporary album that takes time to stray from the cookie cutter outline of what contemporary music usually sounds like. Frecka's sound definitely has its faults though, as well. A lot of the songs go on a lot longer than they should; "Little Child" and "Live In Me" exceed seven minutes each, with several others exceeding five. Some artists are able to pull this off, but Frecka's songs don't carry the necessary weight to do so well enough. As a result, they seem too long and drawn out, and it's easy to lose interest. Frecka's vocals shine the most in the two Russian tracks, where she is more able to express her creativity, whereas in the English language songs, she seems just a bit drier. Rays of Mercy is quite a wild card, as you don't really know what you're going to get from one song to the next. The experimental factor is a good reason to give this a listen or two, but also, the average fan of contemporary music can probably also find something to like along the way.
- Review date: 8/17/12, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
- Come (5:21)
- Holy (4:19)
- Abba (5:16)
- Little Child (5:10)
- Reign (4:11)
- Offering (3:32)
- Praise You (4:00)
- Live in Me (7:23)
- Blind (4:03)
- You Alone (5:16)
Jesus freak Hideout (Scott Fryberger): Before writing songs for Rays of Mercy, you became a missionary to Russia. How did you decide on Russia, and did you speak any Russian before going?
I grew up on the border of Mexico in El Paso, just across from Juarez, so even as a young kid, I was involved in missions across the border with my parents from time to time. Then as a teenager I became involved in a program with Youth With A Mission called King's Kids. I learned about intercessory prayer, served in missions oversees, and over time felt very drawn to Eastern Europe. Later my parents served for two years with Youth With A Mission in Moscow, and I realized that was the country I wanted to serve in for the rest of my life. I began studying the language from Russian textbooks I could find, and looked for every opportunity to spend time in Eastern Europe. I even spent a semester studying in Russia while in college. By the time I moved there, I was conversational, but it wasn't until several more years of being immersed in the culture and language that I became more or less fluent. It's hard to believe that we have been living and serving in Russia as a family already for more than 12 years.
JFH (Scott): What drove you to get back into writing music, and ultimately recording it for this album?
I never completely gave up music or leading worship, so from time to time during private times of prayer and worship I would write a song. Over the years, a small stack of songs had accumulated in my guitar case, but I never really played them for other people. Two years ago, our family moved from Perm, Russia, a city on the edge of the Ural Mountains, to Russia's capital Moscow. Suddenly I found myself surrounded by Christian musicians, spending time at local jam sessions, and leading worship with a worship band. But I was still so unsure of myself, and more than anything, I wanted to write in Russian, something I'd never been able to do. At church one Sunday, I was worshiping during Communion, and words just started coming to me. I jotted them down, and literally within minutes, "Abba" was written. I was blown away at how God had just given me a song in the Russian language. Just a few weeks after that, totally out of the blue, I got an email from my fifth grade teacher. She wrote that while praying for our family, she had seen a picture of me writing in a book. She was curious what I was writing, and as she looked over my shoulder, she saw me filling page after page with music. She shared with me that she didn't even know if I played music or wrote songs, but that she was praying that God would release to me a gift of songwriting. Within a year, the entire album was written. Now with a band and ten worship songs written in English and Russian, friends began encouraging me to record an album. It seemed impossible. I'm a homeschool mom with four small kids, and time is something I don't have a lot of. I've never taken anything like that on before, and it was not only a huge challenge practically, but financially as well. In prayer, we decided to go for it, and within days we received financial backing, found a Christian producer and arranger in Moscow and work was underway. This entire album is a testimony of God's faithfulness, first of all to use for His glory the gifts and talents He gives us, but also to provide for His purposes in His perfect timing and ways.
JFH (Scott): Did you do all of the lyrics writing yourself?
Yes. I wrote all the lyrics myself, although I will say that I asked Russians to look over the Russian lyrics and give their input. Russian is a complex language, and I didn't want anything lost in translation. I was pleasantly surprised at how little needed to be adjusted in Russian, and it is probably a miracle that only one word needed to be changed in "Abba".
JFH (Scott): You have two non-English songs on Rays of Mercy ("Abba" and "Blind"). Can you talk a little about the songs for those who don't speak Russian?
I've been a Christian my entire life, but it was only in recent years that I really understood God as my Abba Father. "Abba" is a song of worship to our Heavenly Father who covers us when we are afraid, comforts us in our loneliness, and protects us in danger. The lyrics of the chorus are, "Abba Father, who am I that you accepted, chose and love me? You gave everything for me, even Your life on the cross. All I have, all my life, is for you." I've been so overwhelmed in past years by the revelation that God is All Powerful and Holy, and yet He is so personal and caring, so close. Like the bridge says, "Abba, You are all I need! Be glorified in me."
JFH (Scott): What inspired the title of the album?
"Blind" is a totally different kind of song, but I think a lot of us can relate to it at one point or another in our lives. It paints a picture of being lost in a dark forest of fear, anger, and doubt, and not being able to see our way. The lyrics are a cry for salvation and light in desperate circumstances. In the bridge the words are, "I feel a hand taking mine. I see the light in Your face. You lead me out of the darkness and heal me with Your love." The song ends in a major key, as the lyrics change from, "I'm so blind." to "I was blind, but now I see the way. I've found light in Your love." Even many of us who have been Christians since childhood can find ourselves in seasons of darkness, whether through sin or merely through circumstances. But in Jesus we can find our way back to the light, back to wholeness and hope.
The title "Rays of Mercy" comes from the song "Praise You," which was written after a long day with my four precious children *smile*. His "Rays of Mercy" are new every morning! The album title reminds me of that refreshing Truth.
JFH (Scott): Who do you consider to be your musical influences?
At the age of 13 or 14, I cut my teeth as a guitarist on the ballads of groups like Extreme, Poison and Queensryche, so most of my songs start out as chord progressions on the guitar. I also listened to a lot of Amy Grant. Interesting combination, I know. But over the years, some of my favorite groups have become Hillsong United, Sara Groves and Audrey Assad. I particularly like Audrey Assad. She is a true poet, and her lyrics are amazing. They challenge me to really think through my lyrics and not just put some rhymes on a page. I want my lyrics to really challenge or encourage people.
JFH (Scott): Are you planning on touring in any capacity?
Our worship band will be serving in Moscow and its neighboring provinces in coming months. So, if you're ever in Russia, be sure to look us up! The band would love to travel internationally, but our focus is Russia in the near future.
JFH (Scott): Are there any songs on Rays of Mercy that are more personal to you than others?
"Abba", of course, is very special to me, as it is the first song I ever wrote in Russian. But "Come" is also a very personal song to me. We were told six years ago that we would probably lose our newborn baby, Jaden, to a congenital brain defect before his fifth or sixth birthday. God miraculously healed him, and Jaden is a healthy six year old boy today. But that doesn't always happen. Last year, our dear friends were told that their infant girl Josie suffered from a genetic condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy and would probably not live another year. When we learned Josie's prognosis, my heart was so broken for my friends, and I grabbed my guitar and went outside to pray and play for awhile. This song is really the prayer of my heart that day. I don't always understand why some are healed and some are not, why innocent people suffer and the wicked prosper, but I do know that God is good, and His ways are perfect. This was never His design for us, but praise God, despite sin and our fallen world, He promises that He is going to make it all right again. He will come, and He will make all things new. No more tears, no more fear, no more loss. Josie died in May, but her parents are praising God and resting in His promises. Every time I sing this song, I think of Josie, and I praise God that He is going to make it right.
JFH (Scott): What has God been teaching you lately?
These past two years, God has been doing a major overhaul on me spiritually, and it has all culminated in a Bible Study I'm doing right now on the Fruit of the Spirit. I've heard teaching on this topic so many times during my Christian walk, but over these last few weeks, I feel like I might finally be getting it. The key to the Fruit of the Spirit is total submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. It's getting my flesh out of the way through confession and obedience, and allowing Him to have total control over my life. I'm learning what it means to be filled with the Spirit every day, and it is radically changing my outlook on life, my relationship with my husband, my interaction with my kids, and ultimately my hunger for God and His Word.