Prime: Bound for Glory, Speak, Little Songs
Jon Guerra isn't agoraphobic. Despite the album's titular "Little Songs," there is such depth, breath, and dimension that these songs cannot be fettered by the domesticated confines of recycled clichés, plagiarized guitar riffs, and the predictable song structures that we have come to expect from worship songs. Rather, Guerra is a deeply sensitive theologian that goes beneath the veneer of the expected "I praise you Jesus" platitudes. And rather than relying on the same chord projections that many worship leaders have borrowed from Hillsong, Jesus Culture and Bethel Music, Guerra has infused elements of folk, country, neo-funk, old spirituals into his brand of worship. If these songs, which pack such punches to the soul, are deemed as "little," one wonders what songs a couple of sizes larger could do.
Guerra together with Meredith Andrews, Andi Rozier, Kylee Friedricks, Seth McConkey, and Jacob Sooter are part of the Vertical Church Band (VCB). VCB is the worship ministry of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, Illinois. "Little Songs" is Guerra's debut solo endeavour. And with this debut album, he hasn't really distanced himself from VCB. Rather, he has given us his own renditions of 5 of VCB's favorites as well as 6 brand new tunes. Right from the get-go, Guerra shows that he's no crowd follower. While many worship leaders feel an obligatory need to commence a worship album on a big rock sound, Guerra begins the record with a soft almost lullaby-esque entry. The title cut "Little Songs," which sounds like James Taylor at his prime, finds Guerra emptying his soul before God with affecting intimacy as he offers his song as a love offering to God. Sweetness gets a new sound with this devotional piece.
Eschewing the trite route of sameness, "Stained Glass" is flourished with poetic richness. Here Guerra takes on a Jason Mraz piano-based pop excursion on this song which is essentially a prayer to God to make us new again. "Bound for Glory," which also appears in VCB's latest offering, is a jaunty piece that fuses the bounce of rockabilly with the holy romps of an old spiritual that makes us wants to get up on our feet dancing. And giving our feet no rest is the resplendent banjo prevalent "Rolling, Rolling, Rolling." Utilizing two of country music's strongest mettle, great storytelling and a rollicking beat, "Rolling, Rollin, Rolling" is a memorable piece. "Speak," on the other hand, plays up the sound. A gorgeous epic anthem of a big ballad, "Speak" challenges us to pause in our busy lives to listen to God.
While the outputs of VCB trumps on their big congregational sound, Guerra's "Little Things" offers a more intimate and more creative perspective of worship. And on this record, Guerra is not afraid to explore themes, sounds, and styles. Never fearful of thinking outside the box, these songs speak of God in such glorious ways that they are anything but little.