Prime Cuts: We Are Brave, Learning to Lose, Firefly
Shawn McDonald is indeed a brave man to release this record. This is the type of record that's going upset lot of apple carts. For anyone weaned on the rhetoric of today's cultural values, "Brave" is going to sting. In our culture where it's a social opprobrium (especially for men) to ask for directions, McDonald wants God to our guide ("Flower in the Snow"). And in a time when spouses are urged to fight for their own rights and to pursue our own happiness regardless of the means, McDonald tells us that the way to love is to lose ("Learning How to Lose"). In an age where self-comfort and convenience are utopian, McDonald's charge to risk it all for Jesus can be intimating ("We Are Brave"). Though many of these songs here are so counter-cultural and so counter-intuitive, yet they are so prophetic and they are so Christ-like.
"Brave" is McDonald's follow-up to last year's "Analog Sessions," his greatest hits but re-imagined and re-recorded in an acoustic setting. Thus, this also makes "Brave" McDonald's first album of brand new material in three years. Enlisting the assistance of producers Chris Stevens (TobyMac, Carrie Underwood, Colton Dixon), Jamie Kenney (Marc Broussard, Erin McCarley) and David Garcia (Group 1 Crew, Britt Nicole), "Brave" is a return to McDonald's gratifying guitar rock sound with some swirls of electric glow. Easily becoming a mantra-kind of a song is the anthemic lead single and title cut "We Are Brave." The chant like chorus calls upon Christians to be embolden to stand up for Christ even if our values are at odds with the world.
The rippling "End of the Day" continues on a similar axis. Without letting any pebble of life unturned, McDonald here challenges us to think of the kind of legacy we are actually living behind. Yet, this is not to say that every song beats upon the same inspirational-driven horse. Rather, "Firefly" exhibits McDonald at his pastoral best. Functioning as a balm for the rancorous, "Firefly" finds McDonald offering encouragement to those marred by the fires of life's trials. While on the contemplative ballad "Compass" (no not the new Rascal Flatts' song but a McDonald original) calls for us to be more intentional in our care for others. Quipped with lines borrowed from Scripture, the vividly picturesque "Flower in the Snow" showcases McDonald's mettle as a fine lyricist.
"Learning to Lose," as aforementioned, is one of those songs that deserves to be widely heard. In a time when secular marriage counsellors talk so much about rights and being right, "Learning to Lose" speaks first of serving rather than being served in the context of a relationship. However, not all the songs glow with the same level of poignancy. Songs such as "Through It All" and "Your Love is Saving Me" taper off in terms of melody as well as lyrical acumen. Nevertheless, "Brave," on the whole, is a daring record. McDonalds is not afraid to challenge cultural norms. And he is musically articulate enough to put it in a way that it not only registers with the mind, but it also moves the heart.