JJ Heller “I Dream of You” Album Review

JJ Heller

Prime Cuts:  I Dream of You, Boat Song, Keep You Safe

Children aren't coloring books.  We just cannot fill them with our pastel strokes the way we want or see fit.  Rather, God has made them to color outside the lines; they are made to see the magic in places we often miss.  Music is a fecund arena whereby these children can allow their imagination to run free.  And a great Godly children's album is where these kids can encounter the love of a parent (and God) in ways that they sometimes fail to grasp in day to day life.  Over her last six albums, JJ Heller has always included one or two children's song.  At the request of her fans, she has finally re-recorded 6 of these pre-existing favorites, co-wrote 5 new songs, and 1 cover song.  Precisely because it is made primarily to celebrate the intimacy between a parent and the child, "I Dream of You" is more piano based relative to her earlier albums. 

The title cut "I Dream of You" is inspired by the closing line of the album's accompanying book "The Golden Father" (also written by JJ and her husband Dave).  The book tells the story of a girl making her way through her bedtime routine. Every night her mother asks her, "what will you dream?" The rest of the book is the little girl's answer.  And the book closes with the comforting lines of the mother to her child.  She says, "When I'm asleep tonight, my Love, I'll dream of you." Backed by some gorgeous harmonica, "I Dream of You" is dreamy lullaby quipped with lots of moving lines most parents would want to wish for their children.  And in a culture where we are often so preoccupied by the transient of living, "When I'm with You" speaks of the dire need to deliberately carve out time to appreciate the children God has placed in our care.

Yet, to designate this as a mere lullaby album is a misnomer.  This isn't the typical album of nursery rhymes where teddy bears talk and fairies dance.  Rather, many of these songs about speak of God's love for us as a Father.  With her breathy vocals that calls to mind Hillsong's Brooke Fraser, the Jaylene Johnson, Dave and JJ Heller composed "Keep You Safe" can be read as God's assurance to us of his abiding presence in our storm-tossed world.  This is the type of song we can sit back, close our eyes and be ministered to. Formerly available on JJ's "Deeper" and "When I'm with You" records is the poetic "Boat Song."  Arguably one of JJ's best contributions towards her own burgeoning canon of songs, friendship has not been more gorgeous depicted than the line: "If you were a boat, my darling/A boat, my darling/I'd be the wind at your back/If you were afraid my darling/Afraid, my darling/I'd be the courage you lack."     

Known primarily for her mettle as a stellar songwriter, it's pleasant surprise to hear Heller cover Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan's "Take It with Me."  Yet, never one to be dictated by the original, Heller breathes her own life into "Take It with Me" making this idyllic song about the home her very own.  With songs that celebrate values such as the home, friendship, intimacy and building stronger families, "I Dream of You" is an album for the child in all of us.

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