Prime Cuts: There Was Jesus (Featuring Dolly Parton), Face to Face, Heaven Help Me
Overall Grade: 3.5/5
CCM is in the province of glassy-synth pop auteurs. Many a times, the slick dance-beats have rendered the genre weightless and frankly unauthentic. Many of these so-called artists are not interested in creating their own sounds; rather they are desperately trying to be copycats of Taylor Swift, Lizzo and Shawn Mendes under the sheen of feel-good messages. So, thank God we have Zach Williams. Williams is one of artists who dares rattle the terra firma. He brings an old-fashioned macho swagger to his songs imbuing them with some heavy-lifting truths smashing all the recycled cliches. He's no sissy when it comes to proclaiming the/ Gospel truths. He's not afraid to let his gravelly tenor rip and roar. He has no qualms in mixing up his genres. And he's not afraid to sing with unconventional duet partners (such as Dolly Parton on this record).
"Rescue Story" is Williams' much anticipated sophomore album after his hugely successful debut. Instead of trying to replicate his past glories, Williams has gone back to his own journey to be his oasis of inspiration. Best among this oeuvre of songs is Williams' duet with Dolly Parton. "There Was Jesus," which speaks of how Christ shows up in our most desperate times, has an homely old school Zac Brown comfort. Dolly Parton, who is getting more and more ubiquitous in CCM (after duetting with for King and Country), sounds angelically compassionate. The southern accented "Baptized" has a storyline not dissimilar to Carrie Underwood's #1 smash "Something in the Water," making it sound like a paler comparison.
Fans who are familiar with Williams' radical transformation story will appreciate the autobiographical title cut "Rescue Story." Though told with a muscular vernacular, Williams is transparently vulnerable when he sings: There I was empty-handed/Crying out from the pit of my despair/There You were in the shadows/Holding out Your hand You met me there. Then Williams moves away from convention with "Slave to Nothing" --- a stripped down bluesy affair punctuated with elongated pauses and lots of raw Negro-spiritual shout-outs. "Give Him Praise" tries to continued along this sonic trajectory but it is letdown by its extremely cliche "can I get a witness" lyrics.
Piano ballad lovers who only want Williams' grisly yet glorious vocals to be the front and center will love "Under My Feet," "Face to Face" and "Heaven Help Me." Worthy to write home about is "Heaven Help me," a passionate prayer to God aided by the intercession of his heavenly choir. In short, "Rescue Story" will save Williams from the proverbial sophomore slum. This is evidenced again by Williams' verve-packed vocals and his willingness to write outside the conventions of CCM's narrow confines.