Prime Cuts: Fall Back, Alleluia Jesus, Dawn
Overall Grade: 2.5/5
Comeback albums are a tricky affair. After an extended hiatus, does the artist pick up on where he or she had left off and continue to develop the sounds fans have had been familiar with? Or does he or she jump on the latest bandwagon as a way of catching up with the times? Rebecca St. James has chosen the latter. After a nine year hiatus from music in order to raise a family, Rebecca St. James has decided to work with Bethel Music to release "Dawn."
This new six-song EP check marks all the right boxes for what could be a perfect worship record. For starters, the sound and production are top-notched, thanks to two of CCM's most sought after producers Tedd T. (for KING & COUNTRY, Mutemath, Delirious) and Seth Mosley (Jeremy Camp, Casting Crowns) who stir the helm. The guest vocalists are just as stunning; they include St. James' brother-for KING & COUNTRY's Luke Smallbone-as well as Bethel Music's Josh Baldwin and Brandon Lake. And the co-writers - Smallbone, Baldwin, Bethel Music's Kristene DiMarco, and Mia Fieldes- are all proven hit makers.
Technically, this EP ought to score a 5/5 rating, but somehow St. James is let down by the songs. The songs are a largely a miss. Many of the songs are birthed out of St. James' own sufferings where she suffered two miscarriages, as a result many of the songs have an expressed vulnerability in them. Most transparent is the title cut "Dawn" where St. James sings that she is tired from the rough handlings of life, we can't help but feel her ache. That sincerity and earnestness again surface in the gorgeous piano intro of "Middle of the Fire." The best song out of the bunch is "Fall Back." Not sure why the producers have to auto-tune St. James' vocals so much that she sounds robotic, the song is redeemed by its strong melody and its call for us to return to Jesus
However, if songs are vehicles to carry an artist's emotions and drive it into the heart of the listeners, there's a breakdown in the vehicle somewhere along the way. The songs are genuinely not very inspired. After Michael W. Smith's "Surrounded" and Bethel Music's "Raise a Hallelujah," do we still need another spiritual-warfare song that essentially doesn't say anything new and is melodically less arresting? St. James' "Battle is the Lord's" rides too much on recycled cliches and it adds nothing new to what the aforementioned two songs have had said. "Middle of the Fire" and "Dawn" suffer from slothful songwriting: both songs utilize the most common metaphors for suffering ("fire" and "night") without any attempt of breathing any new life into these overwrought images. Moreover, none of the songs give St. James an identity of her own. "Alleluia Jesus," for instance, sounds like a track that Kristene DiMarco would have cut on her own record.
After a nine year wait, "Dawn" doesn't sound like a Rebecca St. James' record. It sounds like a contemporary composite worship record made by her producers with St. James as the guest vocalist.