While the family is already making the rounds on the Fall "Chapman Family Tour," Steven Curtis Chapman releases a new iTunes exclusive EP, titled Safe In The Arms, which features one brand new song, a new acoustic recording of the title track from his latest studio release, two 40 minute interviews with the adult Chapmans and one bonus song from Steven's son Caleb's band. Last year, Steven released Beauty Will Rise, a collection of songs birthed out of the tragic loss of their young adopted daughter Maria, and this EP is a considerably in-depth companion release.
One look at the overall track time for Safe In The Arms EP would suggest that this isn't exactly an EP, however, eighty minutes of the EP's hour and a half running time are interviews with Steven Curtis and Mary Beth. While you're not likely to listen to these interviews over and over, they do delve into the personal lives, struggles, and hearts of the Chapmans, bringing a more personal touch to Steven's latest album, and pulling the listener in to the family's lives more closely. For example, in the interview with Steven Curtis (which is from Fall, 2009), the singer/songwriter tells a lot about his personal struggles with faith and even continuing his musical art after the loss of Maria. And the explanation behind what inspired the single from the album, "Heaven Is The Face," is heart-wrenching but revealing.
The new song on the EP, "Close To Your Heart," features UK worship leader Matt Redman, and is a beautiful acoustic track that fits right in with the songs that were on Beauty Will Rise and lyrically contains the words that the EP title is pulled from. It's been tagged as a "previously unreleased" song, so it's most likely from the Beauty Will Rise recording sessions, and it's unfortunate that it didn't make the album. Still, it makes for a wonderful addition to this companion EP. The acoustic version of "Beauty Will Rise" is a nice touch as well, stripping the track down even more to just Steven and his guitar and some string accompaniment. It makes the song a bit more intimate in the process.
To round out the EP is a forty minute "Speaking Excerpt" from Steven's wife Mary Beth, and the pop rock track "We Will Wait" by Caleb Chapman's self-titled band. Mary Beth's talk is live from a speaking engagement she gave somewhat recently and she shares a lot of her own personal story, including meeting and marrying Steven, having their children, and adopting from China. Her stories are expanded upon in her new book, Choosing To SEE, which was inspired by the loss of Maria. Mary Beth's a great, engaging speaker, and she injects lots of lighthearted humor into her talk, along with some tearful reflections on Maria and God's faithfulness in bringing the family through their painful journey. Following her talk is a return to music with Caleb. The young singer clearly inherited a lot of his father's musical talent, but bears a vocal style more closely likened to Brandon Heath, yet perhaps a bit stronger. The song thematically fits on the EP and is a nice bonus to coincide with the 2010 Family Tour.
For under three dollars, an EP offering this much content seems like a steal. But Steven Curtis Chapman's Safe In The Arms EP is exactly what EPs are meant to be -- continuations of or companions to an LP. The new music is well worth the $2.49 purchase alone, but the additional interviews and song from Chapman's sons makes the journey listeners can take with the Chapmans much more complete. Kudos to the Chapmans for offering such a unique and intimate bonus project.
- Review date: 9/21/10, written by John DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com