Gotee Records, over the past few years, has sought out and highlighted pop worship artists like Jamie Grace and Capital Kings. Their newest acquisition is Ryan Stevenson (formerly with BEC Recordings), with his label debut EP Holding Nothing Back. Hailing from Boise, Idaho, Ryan's music is a pop/worship combination. His ideas are solid, but suffer from a minor lack of unique lyrical composition, and a somewhat choppy flow.
The first song on the EP is the title track, "Holding Nothing Back." This opens the EP with a call to surrender to Jesus. The strong acoustic tone of the music fits the pop/worship feel, and is carried on throughout the rest of the EP. The track opens into a hopeful, upbeat musical vibe. There is nothing particularly unique in the lyrics; in many ways, this feels like your standard fare for Christian radio. "Human Side" was a pleasant surprise, however. This song is about the dual nature of Jesus as both God and man, and the understanding Jesus has for our humanity. Although "Human Side" is similar in style and writing, the composition and progression of the piece is far superior to the opening track. This is a very modern offering, consistent with the direction a lot of CCM is going in. The lyrics "Your love keeps showing me, you understand the human side of me," highlight the unique theme of Jesus's own humanity. This theme gives a strong message to the song, making it memorable and relevant. The build of electric guitar in the background, combined with acoustic elements, and some electronic hints, combine to make it a standout track on the EP. The second half of the song really shows the potential Ryan has to be something truly unique on the Christian pop scene, as he continues to create.
"Lead the Way" is a commitment to give up control, and let God lead. Building in with an upbeat introduction, and a fast-paced first verse, this song initially captures a good feel. But as the song continues, it becomes repetitive. Part of the reason for this is the drum track isn't very creative or varied. "Lead the Way" leaves me wondering what could have been. There are hints at an indie influence, but they are drowned out by a generic Christian contemporary sound, rendering the song far less special.
The concluding track is an acoustic arrangement of "Speak Life," a TobyMac song that Ryan co-wrote for Toby's latest album, Eye On It. "Speak Life" lends itself very well to an acoustic version, and Ryan executes the piece beautifully.
Holding Nothing Back is a good introductory EP. Ryan's technique, ideas, and production are all topnotch; the pieces are all there. However, this effort suffers from a lack of creativity on some fronts. More investment in varied drums, stronger lyrical composition, and additional indie influences would have done great things for these tracks. This EP is a worthy beginning at Gotee, and we shall see what the future holds for Stevenson.- Review date: 9/25/13, written by Aaron Alford of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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