Prime Cuts: Holy, Faithfulness (Featuring Steffany Gretzinger), Your Love Defends Me
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
Matt Maher doesn't write in a vacuum. While many of his peers do not invest too much time in crafting their lyrics, Maher makes sure his words connect both the church's past and present. Every song he writes resonates with echoes of lines from the church's hymnody or the allusions of Scripture. With the confluence of both the new and the familiar, Maher's compositions have a way of gaining immediate traction with worshippers. They are refreshingly contemporary as well as nostalgically familiar. This is why over the years, Maher's songs, such as "Lord I Need You," "Christ is Risen," and "Because He Lives," have become standards in the soundtracks of countless churches. Utilizing the same winsome template for album #6, one doesn't have to be a prophet or the son of prophet to know that many of these songs here will become favorites of copious church goers.
Easily in the queue for being a future worship classic is "Your Love Defends Me." If you get the deluxe version of this disc, you will be blessed with the piano version of this album's lead single. Though the song has a grandiose hymn-like structure written for the church to worship along, but Maher's cadence and nuances are so personal (especially on the solo piano version) that you feel like he has read our diaries and is echoing our fears and uncertainties before our sovereign God. Likewise, "Won't Let Me Down" also makes us drop everything and worship along too. Inspired by the recent death of his dad, the song expresses the angst that sufferings bring as well as the immovable faithfulness of God.
Yet, Maher isn't one that is only horizontally focused on our earthly sufferings. Rather, songs like "Holy" and "The Cross Forever Speaks" rightly teach us that unless our gaze is vertically fixated on the holy beauty of God as expressed via the Cross, our response to suffering will only be a meaningless whine. Speaking of how Maher interweaves the traditions of the church into his own songs, "Awaken My Soul (A Thousand Tongues)" and "Faithfulness" are gorgeous examples of how the memorable phrases of both Scripture and hymns can have a fresh and contemporary facelift. These are not those "I-love-you-Jesus" songs. Rather, they possess shafts of depths and dimensions.
Maher does step out of his sonic boundary with "What a Friend." Surrounding himself in a doo-wop 60s Motown feel, "What a Friend" sounds like the sequel to the hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" quipped with a Stevie Wonder swirl. However, being a 16 song set (if you get the deluxe edition), there are bound to be a few fillers (e.g., "Picket Sign," "As Good As It Gets," and the two "Echo" interludes). Nevertheless, this disc is still stellar. These songs remind us that worship music is a continuum, the new is built on the old and the old ought to give birth to the new.