Prime Cuts: Not Going Anywhere, House on a Hill, Awakening
Overall Grade: 3/5
Amanda Lindsey-Cook describes her new album as "an album of rest." An album that was birthed out of her own personal struggles; these songs captured in tender measures how she finally found rest in Christ after her bouts with fear, insecurities and hurts. In accord with this theme of rest, all the songs on this new set are soft ethereal ballads that bristling with diary-like confessions that are therapeutic for the soul. Fans of Sara Groves, Audrey Assad and even labelmate Steffany Gretzinger will find many reasons to rejoice with this record. Therefore, though this album is associated with the Bethel music imprint, it's not a typical congregational worship album where you have lyrics that are collective and tempos that are variegated. Rather, what we have here are more personal manifestos of how God has ministered and brought rest to a troubled soul over almost-lullaby sounding personal worship reflections.
Amanda Lindsey Cook has been a part of the Bethel Music family since 2010. Her song "Starlight" is featured on Bethel Music's first album recorded live on tour Starlight (2017). "Pieces" (co-authored with Steffany Gretzinger) is featured on Have it All (2016). Amanda's first solo project with Bethel Music, Brave New World, released in September 2015 and won a GMA Dove Award for Inspirational Album of the Year. She is featured on five Bethel Music compilation albums to date and has written numerous anthemic worship songs including "You Make Me Brave," "Closer," "I Will Exalt," and "Shepherd."
Starting off with synth-induced howls of the wind, "Not Going Anywhere" is a first-person narrative song where God assures us of his abiding presence despite the chills of the season. The value of this record is that Cook doesn't leave us in the abstract. On the title cut "House on a Hill," she gives us palatable directions of how we can discern God's presence: "Some things you can't know till you're still, in the silence where your spinning thoughts slow down." On the other hand, she also asserts that God's presence can't be manipulated. Rather, on the lead single "Awakening," she wisely reminds us that it's the grace of our resurrected Christ that ultimately saves us. In thus regard, Cook is to be commended for her Godly (and Biblical) approach in how she deals with the issue of sin, depression, hurts and struggles.
Thematic concerns aside, one has to say a word about the melodic structures of the songs. Queue the song "Comforter" and "Evergreen" back to back and what you'll discover is that both songs have almost identical melodic progression. In fact, there is a "sameness" that pervades across the entire record. All the songs here start off in whispery intonations before soaring a fraction in the chorus before disrupting again in softer shades. And even certain chord patterns are so repetitive that there's a glaring predictability. This makes the record sound like a long tedious song that never really varies in tempo. Such a problem is very pervasive across many singer-songwriter albums which can be easily resolved if the artist were to pick a few songs off the shelves of other writers other than themselves (and their buddies).