Prime Cuts: Here I Bow, After All These Years, Mention Your Name
Overall Score: 5/5
It's hard to fathom that "After All These Years" is only the third duet album by songwriters and worship leaders Brian and Jenn Johnson. Despite the perennial and copious releases by Bethel Music, where the Johnsons serve as worship pastors, they have had not invested too much time in puffing up in their own personal repertoire. And it behoves us even more to know that this is the couple's first album in the last ten years. "After All These Years" is the follow-up record to Undone (2001) and We Believe (2006).
Though a brand new studio album of 10 newly penned songs, "After All These Years" percolates with a nostalgic throwback feel. Most telling is that all the songs here are slow and contemplative ballads. Moreover, the themes of the songs rife with an irresistible joy as the couple look back at God's faithfulness over the various seasons of their careers. In this regard, the title track "After All These Years" is most moving. Featuring the soaring stir of an 80-piece symphony orchestra, "After All These Years" sounds like it belongs to the soundtrack of an epic movie. Brian's sandy voice is gorgeously spine-chilling as he poignantly gives thanks to God for "chasing after us after all these years."
Jenn doesn't disappoint either. Listen to how Jenn displays the colourful shades of her voice on the sober piano-led ballad "Gravity." From her use of her lower registers to her flawless falsettos, Jenn shows us how God can use our array of vocal hues for his glory. She delivers again with what could be her seminal performance on the heartfelt power ballad "Here I Bow." With her full-bodied vocals that hold the song together with a holy awe, "Here I Bow" is a powerful song of surrender to God. When Jenn sings, "For all my life, I am Yours, Forever Yours" you can feel that she means every nuance of each word. More prayerful moments abound with the string-laden "For the One."
With tracks like "Mention Your Name" and "Only Jesus," the Johnsons show us that you don't have to reinvent the wheel to be affective. Rather, for a worship song to do its work, simplicity and Christ-focused lyrics are enough to qualify. "Mention His Name" is a prime example of this. Featuring a Bee Gees-esque harmony in the chorus over an understated synth driven song, the song centers on the name of Jesus. It doesn't charter new turf but yet it pulverizes.
Perhaps, the only criticism of this record is that it could definitely improve a notch or two if there were at least a few upbeat burners. With 10 ballads together back to back, the listening experience can be a tad draining. Nevertheless, if you love slow and pensive ballads sung with utmost verve, "After All These Years" is it.