Prime Cuts: Sparrows, Dear God, Faithful Wounds
Overall Grade: 4/5
Two facts work in Cory Asbury's favor. First, this Bethel Music worship leader has a penchant to ground scriptural truths in concrete images. Song titulars such as "Canyons," "Sparrows," and "The Father's House" demonstrate that Asbury wants us to grasp God's truth not in the abstract, but in concrete images and story lines that resonate with our lives. Second, Asbury is not afraid of breaking the current worship music template. Rather than recycling the same cliches that have often plagued today's worship music, Asbury includes songs that are more personal and creative. "Dear God" being the prime example --- when have you heard of a worship song structured in the form of a letter? Whilst many songs these days can't wait to sing us out of our inconveniences --- Asbury's "Faithful Wounds" is a deep and tender reflection of the value of trials.
Asbury is one of Bethel Music's better known worship leaders and songwriters. He has earned countless nominations and awards with his megahit single "Reckless Love," the title track from his best-selling 2018 Bethel Music debut. "Reckless Love" spent a total of 18 weeks at #1 at Christian radio; has amassed nearly 300 million streams to date; and was named ASCAP's Christian Music Song of the Year in 2019. "To Love a Fool" was birthed during the "Reckless Love" singer/songwriter's 2019 year-long sabbatical. With such a huge song "Reckless Love" under his belt, it's not easy for any singer-songwriter to not want to replicate that success. Asbury is no exception; a couple of songs such as "Prodigal Song" and "The Father's House" are examples. Unfortunately, as sequels of movies rarely work; the same applies to worship songs.
Good things only come when Asbury moves away from the path he once travelled. The aforementioned "Dear God" is a precious moment on the record. Here the protagonist struggles with his own unworthiness before God. Co-written with Hillsong Y&F's Aodhan King, the song is not scaffold by pleasantries. Luke 12:22-34 comes alive with "Sparrows." Rather than offering a snippet of Jesus' teaching as a seed thought for the song, Asbury uses the whole passage, allowing us to step into Jesus' teaching about God's sovereign care in contemporary ways. The creative contrast in his vocal intonations (especially his delightful falsettos) in "Canyons" bring out the vastness of God's love in stunning measures.
If you like piano-based worship in the style of Jon Thurlow, "Unravelling" is a slice of heartfelt worship as Asbury bears his soul before God. However, not all the songs can be earmarked as "essential." "Nothing More than You" and "Crashing In" tether on the side of ordinary. Though Asbury's previous record had that juggernaut hit "Reckless Love," "To Love a Fool" as a whole is a much stronger effort: it shows a more personal side of Asbury with songs that are given to more creative expressions.