Prime Cuts: Only the Blood, Talk to Me, Your Love Endures
"Hand of God" is a conversational piece that gets us up, close and personal with God. On this record, we get so close to God that you can see the crevices of his dimples, feel the roughness of his finger print contours, and touch the wrinkles that mark his forehead. Listening to this album is like eavesdropping into a conversation between God and the Clarkes. Yet, it's a grueling chat of waxing sentimentality or sneering fulmination that never elevates beyond the "woe is me" diatribe. Rather, these ten paeans speak of God's sovereign ways in ways that edify the tired soul. Moreover, they are stringently rooted in the unfolding of faith birthed out of a firm grasp of Holy Scripture. These songs, in short, are worship pieces done in a stripped down, acoustic, and intimate setting.
Avid fans of worship music would immediately recognize that Darren and Jessie Clarkes are the scribes behind the Vineyard song "I Love Your Presence." This worship staple has over 15 versions on iTunes and over a million hits on YouTube. This also led to Darren producing a few records for Vineyard Music. Darren went on to tour the country with Jeff Searles in the band 'Everyone', opening for bands like Delirious and SonicFlood. Around this time Darren and Jessie got married and founded Modern Music Academy which they ran full time for 9 years, teaching guitar, song writing, recording techniques and artist development to young adults and adults. Together as Darren and Jessie Clarke, they have released an EP and this is apparently their first full length studio album.
"Hand of God" features 10 original songs from the couple. If comparisons are inevitable, their brand of acoustic folk-pop worship finds affinity with All Sons and Daughters, Rend Experiment and Bethel Music's Hunter Thompson. Most arresting is the album opener "Only the Blood." Featuring Darren's bluesy sturdy vocals backed by the plucking of nylon strings from an acoustic guitar that start the song, "Only the Blood" hits the Gospel at its bull's eye as it offers a hymn-like exposition of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. While Jessie herself showcases her breathy Nicole Nordeman-esque voice on the uniquely paced EDM meets Suzanne Vega folk pop's "Way Everlasting." The title cut "Hand of God," though a clarity in Darren's elocution would be preferred, is a heartfelt and contemplative surrender to God's sovereign guidance.
"Talk to Me," is a textbook example of how a song can be effectively worshipful without resorting to bombastic exaggerations. With a simplistic cadence, Jessie draws us in to an intimate heart-warming tete-a-tete with the Savior. "Your Love Endures," a Clarke original covered by UK's worship leader Sam Lane, picks the tempo up to a breezy pace putting to music the Apostle Paul's prayer for us to grasp how deep, how wide, and how deep God's love is. While the guitar-led "Broken Things" features tip top intertwining harmonies by the couple. In short, "Hand of God" may be simplistic in its instrumental backing, but it contains songs are lyrically profound, melodiously alluring, and spiritually uplifting.
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