Prime Cuts: Shoulders, Without You (featuring Courtney), Fix My Eyes
Being a soldier of Christ is a challenging call. To sally out in faith for Jesus Christ through running wild, living free and loving strong for others and for God can often be marked by a petard of criticisms, resistance, and persecutions. This is because by nature we are adverse to risk; and to throw ourselves into the mercy of the Almighty God in being God and others focused is incongruent to our sinful core. Yet, on their sophomore release, for KING & COUNTRY not only show us vis-à-vis these 14 new songs how such an assignment is possible, but we can also do it in joyful abandon. Thus, "Run Wild, Live Free, Love Strong" is their most cohesive album to date. And it's also an album that lives up to the duo's moniker. This is because the expression "for king and country" is a military war cry that was inspired by the Scriptural verse that says, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of our Lord God."
For KING & COUNTRY comprises of the songwriting team of blood brothers, Joel and Luke Smallbone. The brothers were born in Sydney, Australia but they moved to Nashville in 1991. The Smallbones are also the younger brothers of Christian recording artist and speaker Rebecca St. James, and the brothers-in-law of Jacob Fink, bassist for the band Foster the People. Their critically acclaimed debut album "Crave" was not only the highest selling album in their genre in 2012, but it also garnered for them the "New Artist of the Year" award at the 44th Dove Awards as well as the Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the first annual K-LOVE Fan Awards. Thus, with such a ominous start, expectations are high when it comes to their follow-up record.
As soon as the first note of the title track and album opener "Run Wild, Lie Free, Love Strong" resonates, you know that there are just no symptoms of any sophomore slums. Percolating with a crisp beat that allows their rock grooves to marry the latest hip hop beats, this title cut is a synopsis of the album's message as it challenges us to be bolder in the way we orient our lives away from ourselves and towards God and others. If the title cut is innovative in terms of its sound, "Fix My Eyes" needs to be awarded as having one of the freshest lyrical concepts. "Fix My Eyes" finds the protagonist speaking to a younger version of himself as to how he would have lived his life differently if he had the chance to start all over again. And for those of us who are just at the starting point of our careers, this song is steeped with spiritual insights, the kind you read about in the Biblical book of Proverbs. "To the Dreamers" takes the boys again to a new sonic axis. Thanks to producer Tedd T (Mutemath), "To the Dreamers" incorporates ethereal sounding echoes with jazzy Jason Mraz-esque piano riffs that are nothing short of mesmerizing.
Yet, the album's emotional nerve center has to be the plaintive ballad "Without You." Featuring Luke's wife Courtney on duet vocals, "Without You" was inspired during the time Luke was suffering from a life-threatening disease. For those of us who have loved ones who are sick, the opening line of "Without You" immediately grabs us at the heart: "what do you do if you don't get better." As a companion piece to "Without You" is the hymn-like ballad "Shoulder." Reminding one of the Psalms here the brothers have a way of describing God's sovereign care over our lives that we can't help but fall down on our knees in worship. Also giving a boost to the discouraged is the somehow average sounding "It's Not Over Yet."
Nevertheless, if we want to charge up our ammunition in taking up our post in fighting for the Lord's cause, this record certainly does the job well. Though they still rock with that swelling guitar and orchestrated blasts and the boys still roar like an inferno, they have also taken the liberties to make this collection fresh, creative and heart warming too.
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