Prime Cut: Wherever I Go (Acoustic), The Way (Acoustic), Speak to Me (Acoustic)
Overall Grade: 3.5/5
Bremnes gets up, close and personal with this new release. Removing the metallic percussion beats and the revving electric guitar riffs, "Wherever I Go (Acoustic Sessions)" almost sounds like a brand new record. With warmer wooden instruments like the acoustic guitar and piano taking the foreground, Bremnes sounds more like a James Taylor or Josh Wilson than a Bruno Mars. Some of the songs are so bare, you swear he is standing beside you in your living singing with just a guitar in hand. Therefore, if you like your music stripped to its bare bones, this album is up your alley.
"Wherever I Go (Acoustic Sessions)" gathers 9 out of the 14 cuts from Bremnes' 2019 album of the same titular. As a bonus, he has also thrown in an acoustic version of his 2015 hit "Beautiful." Additionally, to entice a greater CCM audience, he has also enlisted the vocal help of peers such a Love and Outcome, Meredith Andrews, Stars Go Dim's Chris Cleveland, Tenth Avenue North's Mike Donehey, and his own wife Britt Bremnes.
One of the reasons why many of the songs lend themselves to an acoustic reading is because they are transparently soul-bearing. "The Way," a song that speaks of how God can still direct even in the labyrinth of failures, has a diary-like frankness that is so palatable. Words such as "I used to think that when my heart was breaking/It was a sure thing that you left my side/But now I see through the years/Through the joy and every tear" are filled with such much wisdom and truth. Do yourself a favor and listen to "Speak to Me." The anguish and the hope in the song are so realistic that you can't help but feel like Bremnes is voicing our own pain in the midst of waiting on God.
Love and Outcome's Jodi King's sturdy vocal swirls certainly brighten up the Shawn Mendes-esque "Up Again." The acoustic take of the title track "Wherever I Go" almost transforms it into a new song. No longer a CCM radio darling, this time around Bremnes is only surrounded by a piano and an ensemble of strings. When this Canadian-born singer sings about how God is with us in "the rising flame and the pouring rain," you can feel the chills going down your spin. Bramnes' wife Britt joins him on "Going Together." With the strumming of an acoustic guitar, this autobiographical tale of their romance has a James Taylor-type of a charm that is fetching.
However, like many singer-songwriter records, there is a sameness that come with the songs, especially when you hear them back to back. After hearing this record over and over again, though none of the songs here are really ropey, there's also not one that really strikes out. The hooks are there, but they are not prominent enough to make them stand out; this is a perennial problem in today's CCM that's not unique to Bremnes.