Prime Cuts: We Dance, It is Well, You Make Me Brave
You can't fault Bethel Music for slouching. Within a matter of months, the industrious folks at Redding California have blessed us with an album of brand new material "Tides," followed by "Tides Live" and "Discover Bethel Music". Now, they are back with another live recording "You Make Me Brave." Unlike "Tides" which pushes the envelope to encompass electronic beats aim specifically for radio to embrace, "You Make me Brave" returns to their mother's milk of archetypal anthemic live worship. However, one major conjecture of departure is that since it was recorded live at Bethel Church's women's conference held at the Civic, all the songs here feature women as lead vocals. Featuring their own oeuvre of worship leaders with a few notable guests, the line up include Jenn Johnson, Amanda Cook, Kristene DiMarco, Leah Valenzuela, Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger and Kari Jobe.
Though framed with a careening guitar and bustling drums exploding through this worship burner, the message of "You Made Me Brave" speaks of our vulnerability before the Creator. This is more than a worship song yet it is no less either. Rather, it is through worship, that this Amanda Cook led and composed song gives us a handle of how to deal with our fears. Though "It is Well" is not precisely the old Joseph M. Scriven hymn, it does utilizes the chorus to augment this newly written piano ballad. Everything about "It is Well" gives us goose bumps: from Kristene DiMarco's breathy vocals to her sensitivity to know when to transit from her softer whispers into her explosive growls to the song's gorgeous declaration of trust in God, this song excels on every level.
The Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger-led "We Dance" calls to mind Luther Vandross' "Dance with My Father," except that the father in focus here is our heavenly one. The way Gretzinger sings about locking eyes with our Father and letting him lead the dance sums up (albeit in an artistic way) what the Christian life is all about. Jenn Johnson, who is Bethel's Senior Worship pastor, pours out her heart on the formerly released "A Little Longer." And she shows that she can be just as effective in her softer moments when she leads the album's closer "We Step into Freedom." With just her voice and the stark plucking of the nylon strings of an acoustic guitar, the worship ambiance is just staggering.
Since this is a live recording, there are certain elements of the recording that don't translate well into an audio CD experience. The over a minute silence before Kari Jobe leads us in her recent single "Forever" feels literally like forever. And the album's various spontaneous worship moments may be essential in a live worship setting, but it becomes an exercise of tedium when captured on disc. Nevertheless, "You Make Me Brave" brims with lots of great congregational based tunes delivered with heart, thought and Scriptural reflections; an album made not just for the ladies, but with the entire church in mind.