Prime Cuts: Flaws, Save Me, Kill the Dragon
Kierra Sheard's brand new album is our first class ticket into "Graceland." On these 14 newly recorded tracks we are ushered into a world where God loves us despite our countless flaws. We enter the presence of what it means to be saved from the fangs of the dragon when we are trembling in our helpless estate. We engage in a society where we interact with grace-filled human beings who are willing to sacrifice the little they have for the good of others; and where others are treated not as they deserved but as how Jesus would treat us. Yet, the ambiance of "Graceland" doesn't feel stuffed or reclusive or even antiquated. Rather, utilizing the best of a myriad of today's hip hop beats, bludgeoning heavy rock guitar riffs, adult-contemporary slated pop ballads, and suave ever cool R&B grooves, Sheard together with brother cum producer J. Drew Sheard (JDS), Harmony Samuels, Aaron Lindsey and Justin Brooks give this record an encompassing youthful edge without for a moment abandoning the greater matters of faith.
To the aficionadas of Gospel Music, Sheard needs no introduction. Being the daughter of Karen Clark Sheard (of the legendary Clark Sisters), the granddaughter of the late Mattie Moss Clark and the cousin of producer/singer J. Moss, Kierra Sheard has been blessed with amazing heritage and mentors. Ever since 2004, she has been blessing us with her brand of Gospel music that not only speaks to umber Christians but also to the average plebeian on the street. "Graceland" is Sheard's fifth album and it's also easily her best to date. Before we delve into an exposition of the record, it's suffice to say that Sheard's "Trumpets Blow," a teaser single that was supposed to be part of this project, is somehow conspicuously not included here.
Rather, the catalyst to get the buzz circulating this time is "2nd Win." "2nd Win," a busy Gospel banger with heavy inundated drums and swampy-sounding guitar work, calls upon God to exercise his grace upon our lives today. Drawing precedence from Scripture as to how God can accomplish the impossible, this is a much needed prayer for the church today. Yet, the best songs here are a couple of pop-slanted ballads. The first of which is "Flaws" which comes from the pen of the legendary Diane Warren (Whitney Houston, Celine Dion & Beyonce). "Flaws" is Sheard's love song to Jesus as a response to His grace. And way before Disney had ever developed the "save the damsel from the dragon" motif, Revelation 12 has already has had a corner on it. "Kill the Dragon" essentially is Revelation 12 put into cinematic music.
"In You," which also belongs to the same slower paced category of songs, pales in comparison to the other two aforementioned ballads for having too many elongated notes. Big rock guitar hooks lead the parade with "No Graceland" as Sheard explores the theme of how sin pilfers us from the grace of God. "Repin' My God" (which features Canton Jones) also finds Sheard branching out of her comfort zone to great effect as it finds Sheard experiments with electronica and rap. "Moving Forward," on the other hand, echoes the words from John 20:29. This is a song that helps us put handles on faith encouraging us to trust in Christ despite not having seen Him with our physical eyes.
In short, "Grace" is not only the theme that runs right through these songs. But collectively these songs create a culture, a language, and a lifestyle so besotted by God's grace that you can't help but want to be a permanent resident of "Graceland" after hearing this album.