Prime Cuts: Run to the Father, Christ Be Magnified, Death of Death
Overall Grade: 3.5/5
By his own admission, Cody Carnes is a piano-man. He writes his music behind those black and ivory notes. This is why seven out of the nine cuts of Carnes sophomore solo record are all piano-based ballads. Almost three years since his debut record, Carnes has shown growth as a songwriter. Partnering with luminaries such as Matt Maher, Ran Jackson, Cory Asbury, Ethan Hulse, Steffany Gretzinger, Stefan Cashwill, and Passions' Kristian Stanfill and Brett Younker as his co-writers, this new record has a more congregational rather than idiosyncratic feel. Moreover, relative to his debut record, the lyrics are less clumsy and the melodic hooks are a little more prominent. Gone also are those big synth-based electronic sounds. Rather, the record has a more intimate backing; with the foci being on Carnes rousing and powerful tenor and those gorgeous piano riffs.
Best among this canon of songs is "Christ Be Magnified." Written by Carnes, Cory Asbury and Ethan Hulse, "Christ Be Magnified" is prided for how the song convincingly builds up a case of why Christ is the greatest in the entire cosmos. Most precious is Carnes' response to such greatness when he sings: I won't bow to idols/I'll stand strong and worship You/If it puts me in the fire/I'll rejoice 'cause You're there too. The title cut "Run to the Father" (co-written by Carnes, Matt Maher and Ran Jackson) is Carnes' "Reckless Love." Just like Asbury's #1 hit, "Run to the Father" echoes Jesus' parable of the lost son, where Carnes stands in the shoes of the prodigal running home to the awaiting father. The rawness of Carnes' emotions and the emotive language of the song make this a treasured moment.
"Power in the Blood" and "Death of Death" are both contenders for worship leaders to include in their Lent and Easter song sets. The former borrows phrases here and there from the hymn of the same titular. There is nothing wrong with that, but it invites comparison between this Carnes' original with the hymn, which can be a tad unfair. "Death of Death" is in a class of its own. A cinematic ballad that brings us to to the foot of the Cross, "Death of Death" dramatically unfolds the meaning of Christ's death in earth-shattering fashion. However, not all of the ballads have that impact as "Death of Death." "Nothing Else" and "Let the Light In" both emerge out of the same template: similar piano intros, underdeveloped hooks, endless (and meaningless) repeats, and songs that linger far longer than their melodies allow.
Precisely because Carnes is the major writer of all the songs, the album is very ballad heavy. There are essentially only two tracks executed on a more accelerated pace: "All My Delight" and "Heaven Fall." Unfortunately, both tracks are pretty nondescript and they are far too innocuous to be remembered. Carnes does have the potential to write excellent songs, but he's not experienced enough to write an entire album's worth of them. There's no shame in singing songs that don't bear his name on the writer's credits. That way, there will be more variety and there's no need to stuff up the record with far too many similar-sounding fillers.