Prime Cuts: Grace Abounds, Open Hands, Majesty
Overall Score: 4/5
Every Laura Story album has at least one story that completely pulverizes. Each of her preceding record has at least one song that jumps right out of the speakers and lingers with you for the longest haul. Who could forget her signature ballad and title tune of her effort "Blessings"? A heart rendering song of thanksgiving birthed right out of the labor pangs of sufferings. And how can we not be haunted by "Grace," a single lifted out of her 2013 "God of Every Story"? The song gives definition to what grace means in the times of silence and brokenness. These are not just good songs; these are songs that revolutionizes "clichés" we have often taken for granted, words such as "blessings" and "grace" respectively.
Though no song on this new album comes to that level of sublimity, "Grace Abounds" comes closest. In Story's piano-led tradition, "Grace Abounds" is a thoughtful reflection of God's abiding grace even in our moments of anger and frustrations. This is the type of song that ought to be prescribed to hearts that have turned rigid towards God. "Open Hands" is Story's fifth non-seasonal record and again it bears her trademark vulnerability and honesty. "Open Hands" finds Story straddling between songs of personal devotion as well as songs written for corporate worship. And this time round, she has also augmented her own scribal prowess by enlisting Matt Redman, Matt Maher and Mia Fieldes to share her pen.
Teaming with worship music's guru Matt Redman and Matt Maher as co-writers, "Awake My Soul (1,000 Tongues)" is a stately grand opener not only to open this album with, but also with any worship service. However, with Elevation Worship's "1,000 Tongues" and Hillsongs' "Behold (Then Sings My Soul)," the lyrics of "Awake My Soul" sound recycled. But you can throw your green bin away with "You Came Running" and "Give You Faith." These are two stunning Story originals that look at our human weaknesses from God's vantage point. Both are refreshing and in fact quite moving.
With Easter around the corner, the hymn-like "Death Was Arrested" is a must-add to every worship leader's portfolio. Filled with thoughtful expressions of Christ's death and resurrection, this song enlarges our vocabulary in singing about the Gospel. The title cut "Open Hands," already a sizzling radio hit, is a powerful worship anthem that bears a gorgeous Michael W. Smith's complexion which finds Mac Powell providing accompanying vocals that is somehow redundant. "Majesty" like "Grace Abounds" finds Story exploring her more tender and vulnerable side. The way she nuances her emotions and channels them towards God on this beautifully written ballad is worth every cent of this record.
"Open Hands" is by no means Story's best album if you are looking for a reprise of "Blessings" or "Grace." But, as a whole, it is to be prided for its well-crafted melodies and for its invigorating lyrics. Story writes not just for singalongs, she also writes with a heart that has spent time sitting at the feet of Jesus.