Prime Cuts: Me, What It Takes to be a Savior, This is a Son
One of the most frustrating instances is when there is a bad marriage between an artist and his or her repertoire. McBrayer has a voice trained for the gold medal at the Olympics. Few men, and even women for that matter, can do gymnastics around a note as McBrayer can. Not only can he gush out in full force making the high jumps for those celestial notes, but he is not only vocally built for altitude. When things soften and hushed, McBrayer shows a placid ontrol that tacitly brings out the song's quitter nuances in ways that are compelling and moving. However, too often such a gem of a voice can be mismatched with the wrong song, failing to bring out McBrayer's array of emotions. With his debut record for StowTown Records, thanks to producer and label head Wayne Haun, such a snafu is avoided. These songs and McBrayer's vocal gifts are a match made in heaven with lots of many gorgeous moments to boast.
Many of us known McBrayer as one of the vocalists in CCM's group Avalon. However, nine years ago, McBrayer left Avalon and the music industry due to a heart condition. After his recovery and after wondering without a label for years, McBrayer has finally found a home with StowTown Records. "Keep Breathing" finds McBrayer working with notable scribes such as Michael Farren ("Every Time I Breathe," "Let It Rain"), Tony Wood ("Satisfied," "Dangerous"), David Frey and Ben McDonald (Sidewalk Prophets) and Wayne Haun ("I Will Find You," "I Wish I Could Have Been There").
Rather than trying to domesticate the sound into a specific genre or template, McBrayer and producer Haun have given the songs the freedom to express themselves. Album opener quipped with lots of harmonica punctuations and a church choir to boot, "Good to be Home" finds its abode in traditional Gospel music with a slight touch of African-American spirituality. Sounding like a worship song Michael English would covet, "Only You (I Speak Your Name)" is a slow burner that progressive builds up to its expressive chorus allowing McBrayer to showcase his supple voice without too much showboating. "What It Takes as a Savior" is McBrayer at his vocal best --- listening to the way he soars to the heights of Everest is itself a treat worth more than the price of this CD.
The title cut "Keep Breathing," the only song which finds a McBrayer-co-writing credit, is autobiographical. Speaking of how we can persevere on in trusting Jesus despite our trials, "Keep Breathing" is a must-hear-song for those of us burdened by life's disappointments. For those looking for a song that ministers to the heart, look no farther than Haun and Joel Lindsey's "Me." Stripping away the religiosity that often scaffolds the message of the Cross, this piano cum strings ballad gets to the heart of the Gospel: Jesus came for me. "This is a Son" is to be prided for the McBrayer's use of restraint and power in the unfolding of the tension between the sacrifice and the glorification of Jesus our Messiah.
"Keep on Breathing" doesn't feel beholden to one genre, but it embraces different tempoes, styles, and sounds making this album a fitting forum for McBrayer's powerful voice to shine.