Prime Cuts: This Beating Heart, Keep Me Close, This I Believe (The Creed)
Way back in 2001, after being in the Christian music business for over 20 years, NewSong suddenly exploded far beyond the Christian music scene and became a worldwide phenomenon with one little song called "Christmas Shoes." Originally released as a bonus track on their 2000 CD "Sheltering Tree," little did NewSong realize this festive song had a way of topping the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart for three weeks, zoomed right up the country singles chart and caused a stir on the pop chart. Many a lesser artist in the shoes of NewSong would have exploited their expeditious fame to venture into more verdant forays of recording a hit country or pop record. But not NewSong; the passion of these Godly men has never been for greater fame but steadily proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus through their music. 10 years after their last worship album, they have partnered with Integrity Music, the imprint that has made it their mandate to charter worship songs for the church, for the release of "Faithful."
Recorded live at the First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia, NewSong's Integrity Music debut "Faithful" is a bombastic stadium-filling worship rifled with enormous electric loops and propulsive sounding drums. And partly to thank for such a big sound is the involvement of veteran producer Nathan Nockels (Chris Tomlin, Passion). "Faithful" is an album that will easily gain traction with the casual listener because there is a sandwich of old and new songs. Instead of blasting at us with a surge of new tunes, NewSong respectfully eases us into the worship experience with the familiar sounds of a state-of-the-art rock rendition of the hymn "Doxology."
Other covers that are interspersed with the newer compositions include Matt Redman's "This Beating Heart." What is most satisfying is the short spoken introduction before the song which functions as an apt way in drawing out the song's meaning with greater perspicuity. Though their version of Hillsong's "This I Believe (The Creed)" sounds like a sonic twin of its original, it's still one of the more theologically meaty songs out there balanced with a stately well-crafted tune. Two thumbs up are in order for their cover of Desperation Band's "Make a Way," a big power ballad that has so much Biblical echoes from the stories of the Exodus and the new Exodus in Isaiah.
As for their originals, the highlight is the intimate spartan-sounding pop ballad "Keep Me Close," which was co-written by Matthew West. Co-penned by NewSong frontman Russ Lee and All Sons & Daughters' David Leonard and Leslie Jordan, the lead single and title cut "Faithful" finds the focus rightly placed on God whose faithfulness is what keeps us alive. Though "Angels" recycles every clichéd troupes imaginable in worship songs, such as the "ooo-ohhh" riff, the meshing up of stanzas of an old hymn in a new song (in this case it's "Amazing Grace"), and the "pause for the congregation to clap along" move, it's still an undeniably catchy song that will get us singing along.
As far as this new album is concerned, "Faithful" isn't just an adjective used in reference to God, but they have kept abreast with the grand themes of the Gospel, and they have "faithfully" executed them in ways that are loud, memorable, and catchy.