Ok, so, a friend of mine (whom I've met via internet, twitter, and a shared occupation) released an album titled Outloud, an EP of four original songs and hymn re-write. I was looking forward to its iTunes release, which happened today. Here's my review of his album:
When reviewing Christian albums, especially those of worship leaders, I think theology is probably the most important aspect to review. Likely because I'm constantly thinking "Do the people I'm trying to reach need to hear this?" I can say without a doubt, that Josh's album qualifies in that respect. The people we're trying to reach need to hear his message. Lyrics that capture these thoughts include:
"Jesus, You're the answer to the world."
"We will stand to share Your hope with all the world, yeah, they will know that You are God."
"I was bound by all my sin when Your love came and set me free."
"You died in place of me."
"After all we've done, can we say we lived for You?"
"No name is like Your love."
"Come Arise" foreshadows what Josh and his band plan to do with the rest of the EP. Tasteful guitars with plenty of presence, good delay sounds with full rhythm underneath. A strong, yet tactful vocal with a solid message. I think that the music between chorus one and verse two is just a bit too long, although it's pulled off really well. Another big instrumental section connects the bridge to a dropout chorus. Again, this is a bit on long-ish side. This is followed by THE biggest drum fill I've heard in a worship album leading to the final chorus.
As a person who has grown up in Oklahoma, I appreciate the country roots Josh uses in "Come Thou Fount." Lyrically, he takes the first traditional verse, then expands upon it with an additional chorus section or tag. Familiar lyrics intertwine with new proclamations of Christ's victory.
"Holding On" speaks well. The guitar work is clean, gutty, and quite prominent ( - I'm not a guitarist, more a keys/piano guy). I think the guitar tone works really well underneath Josh's vocals. This is the strongest song on the album. "Can we say we lived for You" hit me really hard today. Great message and thoughts there.
I love the way "Outloud" (the title track) opens with synth elements. Creative guitar riffs and effects in the verses move the motion forward to Lifehouse-like chorus with full chords and a big vocal delivery. I think the vocal effects in the bridge are particularly effective in bringing the thoughts back to the chorus to end the song. It's a great message. I love the melody at the chorus, over the words "I want to scream Your name outloud." It's particularly striking.
The acoustic guitar sounds absolutely amazing in the opening of "A Sinners Choir." I personally, think this song could have been stronger. I felt just slightly unsatisfied at the end, as though there was going to be more. I do like it, though I felt just on the side of uneasy. I will listen to it more, and hopefully come back with a different conclusion.
Overall, this is a good EP. I would have loved to have hear some Steve Fee style harmonies in some key places in some key choruses. Josh's vocals speak well, in almost all places. I believe this to be an excellent work from someone that really understands worship leading and the current genre of worship music. Thanks so much for your work.