Jon Thurlow “Different Story” Album Review

Jon Thurlow

Prime Cuts:  For You, I Want You, Need to Know

Overall Grade: 5/5

Though comparisons can be caricature, Jon Thurlow sounds like the Elton John or Billy Joel of this generation.  His way around the ivory keys of the piano meshed with the pop sensibilities of today certainly set him apart from many of his peers.  Moreover, Thurlow is committed to an essential component of music that has been sidelined for far too long: the importance of a strong melodic structure. Just like the abovementioned Elton John and Billy Joel, Thurlow has a way with a song's melody that makes you come back to it again and again.  Like old friends who never run out of captivating conversation topics, these songs are so pregnant with wisdom and insights that you learn something new with each listen.

Thurlow is a veteran worship leader at International House of Prayer of Kansas City. He began leading worship as a teenager. Over the years, he has been featured on numerous Onething Live records as well as his own music releases.  "Different Story" is Thurlow's first album in three years and it's easily his best to date.  Produced by Brown Bannister (Reba McEntire, Amy Grant) and Ben Shive (Andrew Peterson, JJ Heller), this album consists of 9 newly penned original songs, a re-cut of Thurlow's 2014 "Still Looking Back at Me" and Onething Live's "Shout Your Name." 

The cream of the crop are the ballads.  While many worship songs deal with our responses towards God, "For You" is a ballad with a difference.  This song looks at the sacrifice of Jesus from Christ's vantage point.  With lots of heart rendering lines coupled with lots of gorgeous piano arpeggios, this song is definitely going to be a Thurlow classic.  Surrounded by piano and strings, the touching "Still Looking Back at Me" also finds Thurlow stepping into God's shoes and how he feels towards our sufferings.  Another strong contender for being a "classic" is the jazzy-pop "Need to Know."  Possessing a hook as mesmerizing as Elton John's "Your Song," "Need to Know" is a prayer for intimacy with God that has killer melody. 

The uptempoes are not bad either.  With an 80s pulsating bass line that calls to mind Police's "Every Breath You Take," "I Want You" is one of the most God-glorifying songs coming from Thurlow's pen when he sings: "God where else could I ever go/When the truth is You're my only good." "Your Light" and "Different Story" find Thurlow wrapped in today's fresh sound of sizzling guitar riffs and synth-driven percussion beats.  But never one to be locked in one style of music, Thurlow does a Motown detour with the sprightly "Power of Your Love."  Then he gives a pop-centric read of Onething Live's "Shout Your Name" which is one of the more "congregational" songs on the album.

In this day and age where melodic songs are a rarity, this album is indeed a treasure trove.  This album is indeed for keeps: it is one that you will find returning to again and again. 'Nuff said, it's time to put "For You" on repeat again.



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