Prime Cuts: Praise His Name Forever, Nothing But Grace, Spirit and Truth
Overall Grade: 3.5/5
Chris Sayburn is a churchman writing music for the worship of God's people. Such an ambition itself is not only honorable and lofty, but it's a crying need for today. Whilst many so called "worship" songs today are geared for a concert setting where the extreme modulation of chords are more suited for a trained soloist than the average pew sitter, Sayburn's music doesn't do such vocal gymnastics. These songs are tuneful enough for the average church goer to sing along and the keys of the songs are comfortable enough without turning us into screeching choir boys and girls. Most importantly, the words are Christ-centered rather than love songs guised as sacred romantic tunes between boyfriend Jesus and me.
Sayburn serves as curate for St. Philips Chapel Street in Salford, Manchester in the UK and one of the leaders of New Wine Worship. In addition to leading New Wine Worship, the worship ministry for the New Wine fellowship of churches, Sayburn has been writing for and collaborating on Integrity Music projects for several years. This includes his work on New Wine's last albums Wildfire and Simple Pursuit. With Saved By Grace, Sayburn and producer Ben Cantelon (Worship Central) deliver 10 new songs including cowrites with Cantelon ("Saviour of the World"), Nick Herbert ("The Way") and Brenton Brown ("Everlasting God") among others.
Let's start with some of the glowing moments of the CD: Sayburn has a great pen for catchy tunes: one could see tracks like "Praise His Name Forever" and "Spirit and Truth" being circulated as congregational favorites. Moreover, the songs are flourished with great theology. Often contemporary worship songs are criticized for its dearth of theological depths but this is not case with Sayburn. Great doctrines such as the meaning of worship ("Spirit and Truth"), grace ("Nothing But Grace"), and trinity ("Great is the Lord") informed the songs. Thus, these are not just "must-sing" about truths, but they are also teaching moments for the church.
However, this set is not without its flaws: great as some of the individual songs are, there's nothing here that really is a standout. Two problems abound: the lyrics on many of the track don't sting or sing enough. They border on the trite: "Come all of you are thirsty, come to the water" or "Who is like you Lord? You are the faithful one" or "I bow to You Lord, I bow to You alone." Second, though Sayburn expounds on the great doctrine of Scripture, he says nothing really new about them. In fact, some of the metaphors cry out to be developed; case in point being the gorgeous "rock" image in "Nothing But Grace."
Yes, this is an album for the church, but the language needs to be more nuanced to sing and sting.