Prime Cuts: In the Waiting (Acoustic), All for You, Breathe
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
It's almost extinct these days to hear some such Christ-exalting lyrics coming out of a mouth of a 19 year-old. Instead of giving in to the mindless impulses of raging hormones like most of his peers do, Sam Hibbard in his song "In the Waiting" sings about how God works in us in our waiting. And instead of murmuring in our waiting, Hibbard's choice of response is to first seek Christ's righteousness. Such Godliness among young people these days is rare. "Higher Ground," Hibbard's debut EP of 6 self-penned songs, puts him literally on a ground loftier than most Christian new releases. From the first note to the last, this is a collection of worship songs that seek to be Christ-honoring in ways are mature and seasoned betraying Hibbard's youthfulness.
Hibbard hails from Aberdeen, Scotland. At the tender age of 19, he has had already two EPs under his belt. Four years ago, the worship leader released a five-track EP "Wholeheartedly," now he is back with his fan-funded follow-up "Higher Ground." The songs were the fruit of Hibbard's training with Worship Central Academy, of which he is a recent graduate. On this project, Hibbard got to work with music stalwarts such as Jonny Bird from Army of Bones, David Henderson Designs, Grant McGregor and Lewis Catto.
The album opens with Hibbard's current single, the perky "All for You." Without chipping away an iota of his commitment to Christ, "All for You" speaks of selling out for Christ. The song finds Hibbard wrapping his glowing tenor around crisp electronic drum beats and a pop-driving melody. Those who like the dreamy soundscape of Coldplay and the refreshing synth-beats of Ed Sheeran will love "Take Me Back." Starting off with the strumming of the acoustic guitar before the layers of sound are artistically brought in, the backings of "All Consuming Love" is itself a work of art. "All Consuming Love" is yet another God-centered prayer that seeks to give God no rest until we experience the full gush of God's love.
"Breathe" and the aforementioned "In the Waiting (Acoustic)" are the nerve centers of this record. "Breathe" (not the Michael W. Smith hit but a Hibbard original) features prominently Hibbard's vocals and the twitching of some nylon-strings of an acoustic guitar. This song showcases the warmer shadings Hibbard's musical leanings. Moreover, his brand new rendition of his former single "In the Waiting" is a tad stronger and more heartfelt oozing with greater confidence. "The Place Beyond" is a tad experimental with Hibbard exploring the sounds of the ethereal and electronica to somehow disappointing results.
If there's any criticisms to be offered, it is that Hibbard's vocals could have been brought to the fore a little more. On certain tracks, it sounds as if he is echoing in a room far away. The EP would have benefited giving Hibbard' vocals more of the spotlight. Anyway, this should by no means taint what is a Godly effort of great God-exalting songs sung by a young man who gives God no rest until we find our rest in Him.