Prime Cuts: We Rise, Generous Portion, Mountain High
Overall Grade: 3/5
Blessed with a special syrinx, Cageless Birds are perched to deliver to a range of worship sounds coming from their new 10-song album "We Rise We Bow." However, they have decided to follow the current trend by not releasing the record in one setting. Rather, coming in two instalments, "We Rise" was released on June 21st, while "We Bow" will hit the cyber shelves on October 11th. "We Rise," as the titular directs, helps us lift our gaze up to God with 5 newly crafted worship songs from the collective. Careless Birds, founded by Bethel Music's Jonathan and Melissa Helser, is a missional community in Sophia, North Carolina. The community is dedicated to manifest the love of God through schools, worship gatherings and retreats.
Just like their entry ("Ain't No Grave") on Bethel Music's latest album, the music of Cageless Bird has an Americana edginess to it that truly sets them apart from other worship teams. Such a rootsy hue is evident in the title track "We Rise." Here Jonathan Helser puts his grainy tenor on a Zac Brown-esque number that gorgeously captures the paradoxical nature of Christ's teaching: "We rise by bowing, We live by dying/When we give what we could never keep/We gain what we will never lose."
"The Reason," featuring newcomer Phyllis Unkefer, can be filed in the oversized cabinet of nondescript worship ballads. While the Chris Miller-led "Glorious" is slightly better with its singalong chorus enhanced by the voices of the collective's ensemble. "Mountain High" cycles the lead vocals back to the Heslers. The swirling strings and Melissa's strikingly angelic vocals give this song an elevated feel that is so befitting of the lyrics which speaks of God's transcendent presence.
Somehow troubling is the closer "Generous Portion." Easily, the song's melody and Rosemary Skaggs' execution of it crown this song with sublimity. In fact, it's the best out of the 5 songs. But the problem is with the words. A worship song needs to be clear and theological precise. However, one is not too clear about the lyrics here: "Nothing can stand against us/We've overcome the darkness/We will not surrender/For less than Jesus paid for/He's giving back what's stolen/We can hardly carry the generous portion." Is the song advocating the fact that Jesus is just a conduit in restoring blessings to us? If so, what does that make Jesus, an errand boy in delivering greatness to us? So, who is ultimately great here: us or Jesus? And what does it mean that "we can hardly carry the generous portion"?
"We Rise," in short, is quite an uneven record. Yes, there are moments of excellence. Then, there are some songs that are so vanilla that they are a no-bother. And then there's "Generous Portion"- a song that brims with so much potential if only the lyrics were revised and clarified.