Philippa Hanna “Stained Glass Stories” Album Review

Philippa Hanna

Prime Cuts: Trust, You're Still God, My Hope is in the Blood

Overall Grade: 5/5

It's all about balance. Worship music needs to strike the right balance between congregational singing and personal contemplation. If the scale are tipped towards the former, then the songs become trite and superficial. On the other hand, if the songs become too personal, then they become idiosyncratic. Philippa Hanna's debut full-length record for Integrity Music achieves that balance. Comprising of 10 Hanna co-writes with some of CCM's biggest scribes such as Martin Smith, Stu G, Chris Eaton, Tony Wood and Kyle Lee and a cover of Robert Critchley's "My Troubled Soul," these songs are made both for the church as well as the individual.

"Stained Glass Stories" depict how our stories are part and parcel of God's meta-narrative. Without the light of Jesus, we can never appreciate the beauty of the entire piece. Each song in this collection avails for us opportunities for us to bring a piece of ourselves before Jesus. Vanguard single "My Hope is in the Blood," for instance, encourages us to bring our fears to the Cross of Jesus. With poetic richness, this hymn-like ballad has both the theological depth as well as the contemporary sympathies. Reflective of her own personal struggles, Hanna brings herself to Jesus in "Against the Odds." The song exudes an autobiographical conviction that is liberating.  Those who like a little fun will love the delightful Brit-dance offering "Loved Me First."

While many worship songs these days thrive on half-developed or recycled hooks, this is not so with "Everything is Possible," "The Name that Saves" and "Oh the Power." These songs bristle with so much verve over melodies that are so defined that it's a challenge not to want to worship along. "You're Still God" strikes a nerve for those of us who like to call the shots only to find that life doesn't always circle within our control.  Challenging us to surrender our idolatrous hearts, you can't help but be convicted and comforted when Hanna sings: "And all I feel is my heart breaking/You still reign and You're still God." 

Not to be missed is the album's penultimate track, the Hanna and Stu G co-write "Trust." Don't let the simplicity of its titular sidetrack you, this ballad brims with some of the most gorgeous expressions of faith:  "Every power in earth and Heaven knows Your name/Every trial and every season You remain/So when troubled waters rise /On this rock I'll/build my life/And I will put my trust in You always." Album closer is the only song not to bear a Hanna songwriting credit. Hanna gives Robert Critchley's "My Troubled Soul" a stripped-down Americana-esque take as she encourages us to cast all our burdens on the Lord. 

Overall, there is no sign of sloth in both the construction as well as the execution of the songs.  Each song stands on its own merit and they each justify a place on this record. Worship leaders will have no trouble in selecting songs for the church to sing.  And individuals can't help but be drawn to the realism of these songs. Albums that strike such a balance are rare, so do yourself a favor and check this one out.



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