Prime Cuts: Ask, Never Fail, Mercy Tree
Church walls are the most dangerous places in the world. Some of us take so much refuge in them that we have barricaded ourselves from ever stepping out to minister to people outside. We have invested our time, energy and talents so much in church activities that we hardly have any non-Christian friends. The same can be said about Christian music artists. Some singers have built such a fan based of Christians that they can comfortably live off the music circled among their Christian fans. There is hardly any incentive to reach out to unbelievers via their music. Anthony Evans, on the other hand, is not claustrophobic. And "Real Life/Real Worship" is not just a record made for the regenerate; rather this is a record where issues of faith, God, worship collide with more "earthly" concerns of finding a family, love and belonging. Thus, it's an album that is not afraid of speaking forthrightly about God yet it is not confined by the walls of the church.
For years, Evans has been known as a "church boy." He is the son of famed preacher and author Dr. Tony Evans. And he has been heard singing with Gospel artist guru Kirk Franklin. However, all of this all changed when Evans stepped out of the church walls to participate in "The Voice," where he was even tutored by Christina Aguilera. Though he did not win, his experience has reshaped his vision for his seventh album "Real Life/Real Worship." Instead of being encased by the encore of tried-and-true Gospel music producers, Evans chose to work with 22 year-old Max Stark.
"Never Fail" which starts off the proceedings finds Evans singing over fresh percolating dance beats so infectious that even fans of Katy Perry and Lady Gaga would definitely give their two thumbs up. Yet, the lyrics are by no means religious nebulous; "Never Fail" is strongly rooted in Phil. 1:6 where Evans reminds us that God who had started a good work in us will never give up on us. "Greater Than" has an old jeep funk vibe to it giving this worship piece a 70s Motown-soul kick. "Something Beautiful" is Evans dalliance with synth beat music. Though "Something Beautiful" allows Evans to explore the shades of his vocal intonations the use of auto-voicing makes Evan sound distant and detached. And he jumps straight into the electronic/dance genre with the propulsive burner "I Found You."
"The real life" part of the album is represented by "Someone to Call Home." This is Evans at his passionate best; listen especially to how he soars as he articulates the universal cry of our hearts to belong. And this is well-followed up by the album's highlight Gospel ballad "Ask." No desperation can ever be addressed unless we take Matthew 7:7 to heart and ask God for help. "Mercy Tree" takes a recess from the album's cascading wall of sound with a stripped down sound. This is a gorgeous hymn-like ballad that calls to mind the Cross of Jesus Christ. Here Evans stirs up his Gospel roots when he even brings in a choir to sing with him. For the sake of the Gospel, "Real Life/Real Worship" is a melodious reminder that it's time Christian music should have an impact beyond the church's walls.