Prime Cuts: Kings and Kingdoms, Do It Again
Overall Grade: 4/5
One listen to Travis Cottrell's "The Reason" reveals that this veteran worship leader is not here just to sell his songs. Unlike many of his peers, Cottrell is not obsessive to recruit songs that only bear his own name on the writer's credit. He has no problem putting his own compositions side by side with Elevation Worship's "Do it Again" or Hillsong Worship's "What a Beautiful Name." Rather, Cottrell's goal is more lofty: he is here to provide a wholistic worship experience that is reverently directed to God and warmly thoughtful of his fellow worshippers. Evidence of his sensitivity to his congregation is revealed in the interweaving of verses of hymns into his own compositions. In so doing, Cottrell provides a way for his congregation to ease into his new songs with less xenophobia. This also connects the dots between the church past, present and future.
For the last eighteen years Cottrell has served as worship leader at Beth Moore's Living Proof Live conferences. Moreover, he has had been singing with some of CCM and country music's biggest names, including Max Lucado, Alan Jackson, Amy Grant, and Garth Brooks. In addition to his work for others, Cottrell has amassed a successful solo career, releasing numerous albums, including The Deep, Unashamed Love, Alive Forever, Found, Ring the Bells, When the Stars Burn Down, and the Dove Award-winning Jesus Saves Live.
The album's apogee actually comes two thirds through the album. "Kings and Kingdoms" has all the hallmarks of a classic in the vein of Darlene Zschech's "Shout to the Lord" or Bethel Music's "Lion and the Lamb." Lofty in the song's execution, God-exalting in the lyrical focus, and majestic in its use of a choir to rend the choruses, "Kings and Kingdoms" is simply superb. Cottrell pours out his heart on the title cut "The Reason" where he lays down his raison d'être for being a worship leader. The utilisation of strings and Cottrell's soothing tenor on "Abide with Me" are ministries to the heart.
Being a champion of blended worship, one can hear hymnic echoes on the thumping "Thousand Tongues" and "No Other Fount." Less effective is "We Lift Our Eyes," which borrows words from the hymn "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus." Not only has this hymn being the influence of countless modern worship songs, but Cottrell's new composition pales drastically compared to the original hymn.
Cottrell's piano version of Elevation Worship's "Do it Again" is actually stunning. And by tagging Michael W. Smith's "Agnus Dei" to Hillsong's "What a Beautiful Name," Cottrell adds a whole different worship dimension to this Grammy winning song. Overall, the utility of this album is not in its individual songs. Rather, it is to be listened and experienced as a whole --- it is an experience that embraces both the new and the old.