Nike has recently launched its most aggressive advertising campaign where they are bold, upfront, and turbo charged in their approach. And if Jesus is more valuable than sport sneakers, why is the church often so understated, laidback and nonchalant when speaking of Christ? This is not the case with Matthew Hagee. One listen to "I Count It Joy" will leave us enamored with confidence in Christ's guidance as Hagee empties his soul in the singing of this gorgeous ballad. Restrain takes a back seat as Hagee builds towards the song's crescendo with lots of elongated syllables and sky-soaring sustained notes. And "I Count It All Joy" is just one example in what is Hagee at his passionate best. Hagee is a 6th generation pastor and together with his father John, they pastored the 20,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas.
Though Matthew Hagee has been singing with his family the Hagees for years, he has also been part of the Southern Gospel group Canton Junction. On top of all these, Hagee has also stepped on his own with his own solo outings. "A New Season" is the sophomore of his solo endeavors and it's by far his best. Thanks to producer Michael Sykes (Gaither Vocal Band, Oak Ridge Boys), his contemplative ingenuity earmarks these tracks. Keeping the backings to its bare essentials, this underlines the message of the single "I Don't Want to Be Adjusted" which speaks of trying not to be so bogged down by this life that we forget our heavenly citizenship. The bluesy foot-stomping "This Ain't Nothing" (co-written with Aaron Wilburn) may not receiving a passing grade in an English class but it more than passes muster in terms of its message about how God will never abandon His children.
Featuring Restless Heart's Larry Steward and David Innis on harmony vocals, Hagee delivers a soaring version of Sandi Patty's hit ballad "The Day He Wore My Crown." Inspired after watching an awards show on TV, Hagee wrote "My Nomination." With the applause of soaring strings over a standing ovation-styled melody, Hagee casts his vote for Jesus as the hero of his life. Fans of the more traditional flare will adore "That's Jesus." A steel drenched country waltz, "That's Jesus" calls to mind the sweeping ballads of Vince Gill, Gene Watson and George Jones. Many artists often find it a challenge to "re-invent" the hymns. Rather than trying to find a new reading of the hymn "Sweet, Sweet Spirit/He's Here," Hagee just belts it all out in his usual verve. And surprisingly, it does works out beautifully.
Diane Warren who has written songs for Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Mariah Carey (somehow unexpectedly) gets a song writer's credit. Cutting Warren's "When I'm Back on My Feet Again" (formerly a hit for AC crooner Michael Bolton), Hagee flexes his vocal muscles in what is one of the most challenging songs to sing on this album. Listening to this soaring ballad now from a Christian perspective, "When I'm Back on My Feet Again" can be read also as a song that testifies to the regenerative power of God's Spirit. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the added sparkle to these 11 cuts is still Hagee's delivery. This is a man who lives and breathes every syllable of these songs; and this is what makes "A New Season" supple with such drawing power.