Prime Cuts: Psalm 23, Up to Something, It's Gotta Be You
There are some albums that are just made for the ear. Its infectious melodious hooks have ways of snagging us into a pandemic daze making us go viral over them. Then there are those records that are made for the mind. Stringed together with so many memorable lines that even C. S. Lewis will blush. They are staggered with so much theological insights that make us want to ply through its layers with each listen. Then there are still other discs that make a beeline for the heart. They have the uncanny ability to give articulation to the voice of our hearts making us go "ahhh..... that song is all about me." It's the type of songs we want to keep our Kleenexes beside us. Natalie Crowmell's latest release "Up to Something" not only shows competency in each of the categories mentioned above, but she has a way of synchronizing them making her latest project an album made for the ear, mind, and heart.
Natalie Cromwell was a school teacher who felt the call of God into fulltime music ministry. Later, she became the worship leader at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie. Currently, she has again uprooted from her position to become an itinerant worship leader aiding various churches in their congregational singing. Furthermore, Cromwell has also shared the stage with Gospel legends such as the aforementioned Gordon Mote, Doug Anderson and Wes Hampton (of the Gaither Vocal Band). "Up to Something" is Cromwell's sophomore release following her Gordon Mote-produced debut "The Reason." Sitting comfortably in the producer's chair this time, "Up to Something" contains 13 brand new songs coming from Cromwell's pen from bar one.
However, unlike her debut "The Reason" which was more country in sound, "Up to Something" is decidedly more pop-oriented. Album opener "It Only Gets Better," for instance, starts off with the sprightly jazzy piano bounce of Jason Mraz before progressing into a vintage falsetto-infused popish chorus. Yet, the greatest utility in a song like "It Only Gets Better" is that it's a hands-on song giving lots of seasoned advice of how we can place our trust in the Lord in tough times. The title track "Up to Something," a song that Cromwell wrote out of a season of doubt, has such a mantra-sounding refrain that has a way of etching into our souls: "when you're down to nothing, God's up to something." "Psalm 23," as the titular prescribes, is a re-working of the Great Shepherd Psalm over an acoustic guitar-led folkish setting that calls to mind Brooke Fraser in her earlier days.
Then she goes into her big balladry mood with the best of which being "It's Gotta Be You." Calling to mind some of Christian Music's most endearing ballads such as Natalie Grant's "Held," "It's Gotta Be You" judiciously uses just the right pauses and explosive outbursts of emotions that make the grace of God sound so glamorous. Despite its plebian titular, "I Need You" adds some Motown blues to this heartfelt prayer. Showing that less is more, clad only with piano and strings, "Lord Hear My Prayer" places the emphasis on Cromwell's vocals as she lays down a litany of supplications before the Savior.
"Up to Something," at the end of the day, is an album that has arms. It is spiritually pragmatic enough that it offers handles of how we can turn to our Master in our times of need. But it's also an album with heart. Utilizing such an array of vocal intonations and inflections, Cromwell not only sings well but she conveys a feeling that we are not alone in our strife. She's there with us leading us by the hand to our Heavenly Father.
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