Prime Cuts: Lord I'm Ready Now, Resurrection, My True Love
Plumb can never be constrained. Way back in the 90s, Plumb made inroads into the secular pop/rock genre by opening up a new discourse of spirituality that pervades till this day. Just when you are ready to lock Plumb into her musical stead, she evolves again. This time she returns back to her religious roots. "Exhale" is touted as Plumb's worship album. But this is worship not in the sense of congregational worship as per the albums released by Darlene Zschech or Hillsong UNITED or Bethel Music. Rather, this is an overtly Christian album where Plumb comes before God as a fellow worshipper articulating her personal fears, failures, praise and thanksgiving before her Maker. Gone are those ambiguous pronouns -- those "hes" that make us wonder is Plumb singing about God or her husband or a friend or a child? Moreover, gone are those nebulous lyrics that could be read as a love poem to a paramour or worship expressed to Jesus.
On "Exhale" God takes the leading role and referent of most pronouns. "Exhale" comes right of out Plumb's turbulent personal life she saw the crumble and failure of her own marriage. Rather than pushing Jesus further because of her pain, she has taken refuge in God and "Exhale" in many ways function as her survival manual as to how the Lord enabled her to "exhale" again. Nevertheless, she did not approach this survival kit solo. Teaming again with her ever-faithful partner Matt Bronleewee on the producer's chair, the songs here are all co-written by Plumb with worship notables such as Delirious' Stu Garrard, Selah's Amy Perry, and Hillsong's Mia Fieldes.
Easing up her dabble with electronica, the title cut "Exhale" is a straight ahead pop offering with honesty in the frontline: "It's ok to not be afraid, this is a safe place...just let go there is love rapped around you, hold you close...breathe it in until your heart breaks and exhale." Lead single "Lord I'm Ready Now" is another stunning piece that bleeds with so much autobiography as Plumb pleads of the Lord for a second chance after her failure. Nevertheless, the way Plumb places a pause in between the word "ready" and "now" calls to mind her previous smash hit "Need You Now." "Resurrection," though it's written from a first personal perspective, could easily work as a congregational worship piece too. If you ever wonder how the Resurrection of Jesus affects our day to day lives, give this song a listen. "Smoke," calls to mind Michael W. Smith's "Breathe," a mid-tempo pacer that speaks of Jesus as our soul's "oxygen." Most arresting is "My True Love," here the disco lights and the flashing mirrors glimmer in our mind's eye as Plumb gets on the club scene on this infectious dance song with Jesus as the subject.
Nevertheless, as great as this album is, two factors bars "Exhale" from receiving the perfect notch. First, Plumb who co-wrote every track, has a style of writing where the verses begin slow pacing through phrases before easing into an explosive chorus. Such a template begins to sound repetitive when we get to the second half of the album that somehow robs the songs of their uniqueness. Second, with every Plumb album, there's an aura of intrigue expressed through Plumb use of images and metaphors. And being someone who loves to experiment sounds, "Exhale" sounds far too pedantic and it doesn't quite have that patented Plumb charm to it the way other albums seem to have. "Exhale" is a great worship album, but just not Plumb enough.