Prime Cuts: On My Side, Glimpse, Throne Room
Overall Score: 3.5/5
When Jesus Culture's Kim Walker-Smith sings, she commands our attention. There's an intensity in her supple alto that has the ability of unearthing the depths of every syllable she sings making her voice come across as absolutely stunning. And when she sings about our Lord, you can not only hear fresh echoes of the Lord's anointing. In short, her voice does something to us: it makes us lean more and more towards Jesus. With "On My Side," Walker-Smith puts her awesome vocal gift to full effect on what is her first solo album in 4 years. "On My Side" is prima facie Kim Walker-Smith. Waxing her Spirit-induced eloquence around her notes, she tackles 12 new songs on this set in her signature synth-driven balladry worship.
"On My Side" didn't come without a price. Within the last 4 years, Walker-Smith has been in a whirlwind of a ride: she did become a mother, her dad passed away, moving to a new city, planting a church, and spending time co-writing this record. Reflecting on her ordeals, she notes: "During all of that the Lord has taken me on a journey of ups and downs, wrestling through the different pains and emotions that go along with all of those. The one resounding message He kept assuring me of is that He is on my side. This album tells the story of that journey. This collection of songs is the message He kept whispering through it all."
If there is a song that gives testimony to the last 4 years of Kim-Walker's life, it has to be the opener "Brave Surrender." A song that encapsulates both our vulnerability before the Lord and the absolute power of God to open up new vestiges of hope for us. "Throne Room," a co-write between Walker-Smith, Jacob Sooter, Lindsay Sweat and Mia Feldes, is what gives Jesus Culture its patented sound. Bold, anthemic and with their signature epic build-up, "Throne Room" puts to worship the promise of Hebrews 4:16. In terms of having the potential to be a future church worship classic is the title cut "By My Side." The lyrics have an instanteous way of resonating with anyone who has had experienced trials: "In the front lines, You fight for me/Oh, Your kindness is my shield/When the armies rise and I am scared/My heart You will defend."
But the disc does present a perennial problem that is evident in many modern worship albums. Walker-Smith tends to use the same template for all her songs. Save for "Glimpse" and "Rise," all the songs here are ballads. Moreover, they are all executed with a factory-styled similarity: most of them begin slowly before building up to a power-hued climax in the chorus where she churns the same lines again and again and again. It's perfectly fine if it's one or two songs, but to have them repeated on 10 cuts is a tad too self-indulgent. Further, some of the lyrics would benefit a tad more with more substance. "Fresh Outpouring" germinates from the idea that we need the Holy Spirit to do a new work amongst us. But how? Why? The song would have been even more meaningful if it were lyrically heftier.
Walker-Smith is in fine form vocally. She does have some great songs here. But if she would break free from her own song writing template and be a little more adventurous, this album would even be greater.