Prime Cuts: House Divided, The Songs I Need to Hear, Coming Home
With Josh Wilson, the electric guitar takes on a life of its own. Touted as the Mark Knopfler of Christian music, his knack for making the electric guitar sing in ways we never imaged it could is itself a highlight whenever we are greeted by a Josh Wilson CD. His latest release, "That Was Then, This is Now," is no exception. The album cover is most telling. It depicts a bearded Wilson donned in a leather jacket carrying his guitar; a portraiture that harkens back to the bygone 80s where the guitar was the most revered instrument of all. But other than his guitar playing prowess, the other highlight of any Josh Wilson album is his ability to incorporate humor, piquant observations, and intricate melodic nuances into his songs. Even his song titulars from his repertoire such as "3 Minute Song," "Dear Money," and "I See God in You" are intriguing enough to incite our interest even before hearing a single note of the songs.
"This Was Then, This Is Now" continues to provide heart pricking devotions that will get us ruminating, talking, and changing as Wilson contemplates how the Gospel changes us in bringing us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Most blatant in terms of developing upon the album's theme is the current single and title cut "That Was Then, This Now," which is tailored made for CCM radio busy pop staple. More avant garde is "House Divided." A rock n' roll piece that features lots of crunchy guitar blasts, "House Divided" recalls Romans 7 which speaks of the struggle between our former sinful life and our new identities in Christ. When listening to "House Divided," don't abort the song too early, wait for how the song ends with just the serene playing of the electric guitar. Fans who appreciate a great guitar lick will have their jaws dropping by the end of the song.
Coming out of an episode of mind block is the lilting pop tune "The Songs I Need to Hear." In the midst of Wilson trying to whip out a new tune, "The Songs I Need to Hear" is about God breaking into Wilson's world (and ours) reminding him (and us) of the values and things that matter to Him. Be careful when you listen to the infectious "Blown Away," you will find it a challenge to walk away from this song without humming the song's mantra: "Life is too short to be this cool." "Coming Home," the album's lone piano ballad, is a slow and meditative re-working of the story of the Prodigal Son for modern ears.
Just as Wilson has included an instrumental guitar-driven hymn on every album, this time he has included "Ode to Joy" (aka "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee"). With a new baby on the way that even features the baby's heartbeat in the song, "Ode to Joy" is particularly meaningful for Wilson. In a culture of computerized beats and auto-voicing, Wilson's "That was Then, This is Now" is a breath of fresh air.