They were already fan favorites amongst the indie and Christian conference crowd, but in 2007, Steve Fee and his band hit the big time by releasing their first major label release, titled We Shine. The album got people buzzing with their not-so-typical style. Two years later, Fee returns with their second, although first all-original, major label release, Hope Rising.
The record kicks off with the high energy "Rise and Sing." This is sure to become a favorite during the band's live presentation. Shortly thereafter is the band's first single "Glory to God Forever" which, at one point, topped iTunes Christian & Gospel charts. All three of the opening tracks (including "Greatly to be Praised") are songs that will surely be well received in corporate worship settings, but seem all too typical. There's little originality here.
Later, we get a taste of what we heard on We Shine. Songs like "Hands of the Healer" and "We Crown You" might not come to mind when discussing original worship songs, but they make for great recorded worship experiences featuring interesting lyrical content and emotive music. This is the kind of stuff that you'd expect to find more of.
Where this record really shines is in the places in which the band strays away from the songs meant for mass consumption. "Everything Falls" seems to take the band in an all new direction. The lyrics are that of someone who is in a desperate situation, everything has fallen apart. They come to God as their only hope. "Promised Land" has an interesting fusion of modern rock and some electronic influences. The driving beat is easy to get into and the catchy lyrics are sure to keep you grooving. "Arms That Hold the Universe" is a reminder that when faced with trials and difficulties, we can rest in the loving arms of God while reminding us of the amazing paradox that these are also the arms that are holding the universe together.
Overall, the album takes you on the same type of journey that any good church service should. It begins with a call to worship ("Rise and Sing") and a time of praise along with a time of introspection and healing ("Everything Falls" and "Arms that Hold the Universe"). It closes with the song "Send Me Out," which again doesn't break any fresh ground, but as a call to action seems like a fitting conclusion to this journey.
Maybe Hope Rising isn't as original and fun as Fee's previous effort, but it's still a cut above much of what you'll find in an overcrowded worship music industry. If you're looking for something with a fresh feel, but with some familiar moments then this one's for you!- Review date: 9/21/09, written by Matt Johnson of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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