Prime Cuts: Girl of My Dreams, Everything Must Go, No Turning Back
There's a sentimental streak in Brandon Heath that puts a familial warmth to his music that is conspicuously missing from that of his peers. For his previous non-seasonal recording, Heath taps into his childhood memories as he allows his grandparents' Appalachian home to be the muse for his 2012 "Blue Mountain" disc. Now almost three years down the track, Heath celebrates 20 years since he first made his commitment to follow Christ. To re-conjure up the first flushes of excitement and joy when Heath first came to know the Lord, he went back to the Young Life Camp where he first encountered Jesus. And to heighten the nostalgia of the momentous turning point, he has enlisted Ed Cash (who was the Camp's musician then) as the album's producer. Thus, "No Turning Back" is in many ways similar to "Blue Mountain" in the sense that it is flourished with personal anecdotes and emotions sanctioned by the wisdom of 20 years of hindsight and wisdom.
As a marker that celebrates such a turning point in his life is the album's title cut "No Turning Back." Featuring Sons and Daughters on harmony vocals, "No Turning Back" is a faith statement that brims with verve and commitment as Heath sings: "I have decided/I called out his name/I'm following Jesus now and/He knows the way/I made up my mind/I leave it behind." Just like Hillsong's "Christ is Enough for Me," "No Turning Back" also utilizes the hymn "I Have Decided" as its lyrical template. "S.O.S.," the only song on the record not written by Heath, is a ballad that gives acerbic articulation to Heath when he first realized some twenty years ago how sinful this world is and his need for a Savior. Co-written with Matt Maher, "Behold Your God" is a worship ballad that errs on the side of overwrought lines that are somehow bereft of fresh and scintillating expressions.
The best songs are the ones that are more introspective and personal. In this regard, "Girl of My Dreams" scores highly. To celebrate his new status as a family man, "Girl of My Dreams" has a Jason Mraz's jazz-pop lilt that romantically chronicles the courtship of Heath and his wife. What sells the song is its attention paid to its details; for instance, when Heath recounts how his wife stole all his drawer space and complains of how he snores, every husband can't help but smile in agreement. Another song that excels is "When I Was Young." A folk-acoustic based ballad that could sit comfortably on his "Blue Mountain" album, "When I Was Young" celebrates a child-like faith. While the ultra-catchy "Everything Must Go" sounds like the book of Ecclesiastes set to music.
Nevertheless, not all is perfect. When Heath tackles songs with broader systematic themes, such as "One Way to Heaven" or "Only Just Met You," his lyrics tends to blend into recycled platitudes and the melodies become indistinguishable from the numerous pop-sounding Christian songs out there. One would wish he would be able to translate some of his piquant observations on his more personal songs to his more worship-focused songs too. That way, "No Turning Back" would be perfect.
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