Prime Cuts: At Calvary, Good Good Father, Here's My Heart
CCM, like all genres of music, seems to be in trouble. Sales of Christian music have plummeted to an all-time low, this has made it almost impossible these days for many artists to make a living out of selling music. Yet, what's still commercial viable within CCM is worship music, that is music made for congregations to sing. With worshippers of mega churches buying music en mass, it becomes profitable for church worship teams to sell their CDs within churches and not have to worry about marketing their music anywhere else. Have Casting Crowns jump on the same bandwagon? Before we start blaming Casting Crowns for selling out, we need to remember that the each member of the team is a church (wo)men and front man Mark Hall was a youth pastor for many years.
"A Live Worship Experience," as the title makes apparent, is Casting Crowns' first live worship album. Though they are not novices as far as live albums are concerned, this is their first album where all songs are directed vertically to God. "A Live Worship Experience" was recorded live this summer at Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church, which is Casting Crowns' home church and where Mark Hall, has remained a full-time youth pastor for more than 20 years. The album features a combination of favorites from Casting Crowns as well as worship songs currently being sung in churches across the globe.
Instead of aping the copious worship bands out here, Casting Crowns have approach this album with their patented folkish rock sound. Without succumbing to the temptation of opening the album with a larger than life stadium rock anthem, Casting Crowns have chosen to open with a hymn "At Calvary." First recorded for their album "Glorious Day: Hymns of Faith," "At Calvary" is still one of he most poignant hymns out there that captures with perspicuity how God enthralls us with His grace via the Cross of Jesus Christ. More Christ-centered moments abound with "You Are the Only One," a track originally found on 2013's "Thrive." Though the verses are not precisely geared for congregational singing, the song hits the nail on the head. The answer of our problems, be it social or spiritual, is always Jesus. Written by Hall and Matthew West, "Jesus, Friend of Sinners" has a gorgeous hymn structure that richly and poetically admonishes the church to show compassion.
Not all the songs are garnered from Casting Crowns' canon. They have also encompass some popular worship songs such as Housefires' "Good Good Father." A track that Chris Tomlin has taken Top 10, "Good Good Father" is one of the most moving expositions of God's parental care and providence. With the trading of voices between the band members, Crowder's "Here's My Heart, Lord" gets a call and response makeover that functions it sound like our worshipful response to God's gracious acts. Tethering more on the expected side is Casting Crowns' take of All Sons and Daughters' "Great Are You Lord" which already has had invited far too many covers.
Much more refreshing is their take of another All Sons and Daughters' composition "Called Me Higher." This song is aimed right at the hearts of those who are spiritual couch potatoes: "I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home/Never let these walls down/But You have called me higher/You have called me deeper/And I'll go where You will lead me Lord." Targeting mostly worship ballads and adding their own folk-rock sound, this album truly is a worship album, it creates for us the soundtrack for our own personal and corporate worship of our Almighty God.