Prime Cuts: Blush, Hammer and Nails, Pocket Sized God
The forte of Weston Skaggs is to break stereotypes. If your idea of worship music is polished keyboard driven intros leading into an anthem-like chorus with a giant electric guitar hook before giving in to a constant repetition of the chorus two thirds into the song, then you can expect to have such a caricature eradicated. Recycled tropes are the nemesis of Skaggs latest release "Joy and Sorrow Meet." This isn't your typical worship record. Rather, Skaggs has deliberately blur the neat divides surrounding genres. What you get is a nu-folk worship album that incorporates a dash of NEEDTOBREATHE's avant-garde rock with a dose of Rend Collective's campfire folk vibes and a pinch of Ricky Skaggs' country bluegrass flair. Instead of confining the songs into a sonic template, Skaggs treats each track like his little children, each bearing its own personality and individuality.
Before we delve into an exposition of the record, it's fair to say a word about Skaggs first. Skaggs hails from Cleveland Ohio. He's a worship leader by profession and passion. Teaming up with producer Chris Hoisington (of the Brothers McClurg), this record is released under the Sprig Music imprint. "Let a Song Go Out of My Heart" starts off the proceedings on an intimate note. Surrounded by a small bevy of singers and some gorgeous sounding banjos, Skaggs pours out his heart before the Lord expressing his earnest desire to worship. Earnestness is definitely a continuing tone with the confessional and Americana-leaning "Lay It Down."
Never one to be predictable, the glassy-sounding beats certainly add a dance-oriented glaze to "Glory to Your Name." "Blush," on the other hand, adds "rawness" to worship. Too often our worship songs are too sanguine and too slick that they do not get to the nitty gritty affairs of our human heart. "Blush" is not just a worship song. Rather, it is powerful pastoral moment whereby Skaggs gently but sternly warns us about sin and our need to be holy. This is a must-hear for every serious Christian. Sin again is confronted albeit in a more singalong fashion with the ultra-catchy "Pocket Sized God." Quip with lots of witty lines, "Pocket Sized God" is a much needed reminder of not domesticating God and His sovereignty.
Easily, the buzz song of the record is "Hammer and Nails." With a delightful sounding Mumford and Sons folk sound, Skaggs organically meshes his newly written tune with lines from the hymn "There's a Fountain." Speaking of organic, "Hammer and Nails" actually does feature the sounds of a real hammer pounding on nails. Inspired by his wife's near death experience, the heartfelt "Out of the Wreckage" speaks of how Christ brings resurrection even in our messes.
"Joy and Sorrow Meet" is what producer Chris Hoisington calls a "headphone record." This is not elevator music that merely functions as background noise. Rather, the poignancy of the words and the refreshing organic approaches to the songs beg to be listened to with care and seriousness. In fact, there's so much truth and nuances that you would want to return to this record again and again.
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