Prime Cuts: Loved and Known, Fighting for Us, Prisoners
Overall Grade: 4/5
Michael Farren has on been on creative roll for more than a decade. Avid connoisseurs of songwriter's credits will remember his name. He is the proud co-writer of songs such as "Sing It Now" (Reba McEntire), "Washed Away" (Michael W. Smith), "Trust in You" (Lauren Dangle), "For All of Us" (Natalie Grant) and many others. Finally we get to hear the man behind the pen with Farren's debut Integrity Music worship album "Fighting for Us." This album has been a long time coming. In fact, 4 singles have preceded the album's release with the first single "Oh Praise (The Only One)" being released 3 years ago!
So, is the album's worth the wait? If you like pop-centric worship songs made for the church to sing, there's much to treasure. Worship leaders would do well to listen to album opener "I Belong to Jesus (Oh Hallelujah)." A stately worship anthem in the ballpark of "10,000 Reasons" and "Cornerstone," "I Belong to Jesus (Oh Hallelujah)" has that inviting aura drawing the congregation to worship along. The same can be said about "Oh Praise (The Only One)." Title cut "Fighting for Us"picks up a prevailing theme throughout scripture of how God is a warrior who fiercely protects his people even with his son's life. The way Farren invests himself into every note of this slow brewing ballad makes this song extra convicting and convincing.
More teaching moments abound with the confessional pseudo-country-rock "Prisoners." Farren really hits the nail on its head as far as what sin really is; sin is not just wrongdoing, but sin is to be held captive by the idols we worship: We all were pris'ners in cells of our own making. But the album is letdown a tad when Farren starts singing the songs he had had co-written by his label mates Alyssa Turner ("As It is in Heaven") and Corey Voss ("Praise the King"). Considering that both songs have just been recently released and that Farren's versions don't deviate much from the originals, one doesn't really see the point. Even his cover of his Lauren Daigle's hugely popular "Dry Bones (Come Alive)" makes no sense.
Then there are the less congregational focused songs. "Where is God" joins the endless litany of songs that tries to understand God's presence in suffering without adding much to the search. Album closer "Loved and Known" is another whole cup of tea. The message that the greatest thrill of life is to know that you are loved and known by God is made extra special with Farren's breathy vocals and stark piano chords. And the demo-feel of the song adds to the paean's intimacy. With this song, Farren proves that he can not only write a killer song, but he has a way of making the expressions of our hearts palatable and real.