Stuart Townend “Courage” Album Review

Stuart Townend

Prime Cuts: How Shall I Sing that Majesty, Lead On, Lead On, I Will Wait for You (Psalm 130)

Overall Grade:  3/5

The carnage of the so-called worship wars has left its share of unfortunate casualties. Church splits and Christians walking away with a bitter after taste have led to the inevitable rise of artists like Townend. Instead of championing for either the hymn or modern worship song option, Townend represents the third alternative.  He, like the Gettys, has decided to write new worship hymns quipped with contemporary sensibilities and resonate with the theological richness of those ancient hymns. Over the years, Townend has serviced the church with gorgeous new hymns like "In Christ Alone,""How Deep The Father's Love For Us", "Beautiful Saviour" and "The King of Love"  In this regard, Townend's contribution to the church's worship is indispensable. 

"Courage," released under the Integrity Music imprint, is Townend's first record in four years. Glancing at the credits of the record, one is impressed by Townend's co-writers, such as Ed Cash, Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty and Brenton Brown. "How Shall I Sing that Majesty" is one of three co-writers with the Gettys.  The song bears all the sonic trademarks of the trio's songwriting: a driving Celtic-pop melody with well thought out lyrics that go deeper than the usual platitudes.  However, as much as this is a winsome template, Townend has (slothfully) repeated the same structure for the next three songs "May the People Praise You," "How Good is It to Sing" and "Still, My Soul be Still."  When all four songs opening the disc have the same tempo and similar melodic progressions, this can be tediously jarring. 

Only by track #5, there is a change in the soundscape. "I Am Here for You," which features Emma Townend on lead vocals, is a superior heartfelt Alison Krauss-esque ballad.  Inspired by how God lead him out of a period of pain after the death of his brother, the rootsy title cut "Courage" is Townend's testimony captured in song.  Praying for God's leadership in our uncertainties is the thrust of the irresistible Celtic-inspired "Lead On, Lead On."  Again featuring Emma Townend on lead vocals, this song is stocked with piercing honesty: 'Lead on. Lead on' not always my prayer/When pride embittered my soul.

Then fans who long for a ballad in the veins of "In Christ Alone" will love "I Will Wait for You (Psalm 130)."  Since it is a co-write with the Gettys, the song can also be found on the Irish couple's latest release too.  After Hillsong have set the Apostle's Creed to music in "This We Believe (The Creed)," they have set the standard of how such songs ought to be executed.  Townend's endeavour with "We Believe (The Apostle's creed)" pales in comparison.  Likewise, hasn't the prayer of St. Patrick been set to music already?  So, what's the point of "Christ be with Me (The Patrick of St Patrick)"?  Why not write new music to prayers of other spiritual giants such as Calvin or Spurgeon or Luther? 

After all these years of writing and creating worship music, one gets the impression that a lot of material came out of routine than inspiration.  Sure, there are some wonderful moments, but this album is also predictable and slothful in other areas.  Not Townend's best effort.



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