Prime Cuts: Into the Wild, Evidence, Best Friends
Overall Grade: 3.75/5
Touted as the new Chris Stapleton-meets-Matt Redman, Bethel Music's Josh Baldwin's "Evidence" promises to be different from what passes as worship music today. With more banjos, harmonicas and acoustic guitar foregrounded, there's a more organic and Americana flourish to these songs compared to the oeuvre of this church team, Bethel Music. Moreover, Baldwin has an expressive tenor with a rim of Crowder-esque edginess that engages with immediacy. However, despite some stylistic departures, the songs are still accessible for worship rife with pop hooks and emotive lyricism. Many of these songs would not be out of place with some of the songs Baldwin has had written for Bethel Music, such as "Stand in Your Love," "Praise (Be Lifted Up)" and "My Hands Are Opened."
Album opener "Into the Wild" sets the thematic thread of the record. Co-written with Steffany Gretzinger, Ethan Hulse, Bobby Strand and Baldwin, "Into the Wild" speaks of the joy of journeying into life with Jesus compassed by faith. Such an expression of faith is also the theme of the pop-centric and congregational "New Creations." In the light of so many CCM and worship artists turning their backs on God, "Evidence" is a gratitude-soaked composition detailing how God still works in our lives today. The song's assuring and faith-filled lyrics make this a vital inclusion in any worship set.
Not to be missed is Baldwin's take of Hillsong Y&F's "Best Friends." The excellent harmonica-led introduction, the stripped down acoustic backing, and the heartfelt vocals make this cover bear all of Baldwin's own signature. This is one of those rare cases that a cover excels the original. Bethel Music's Brian Johnson has a hand in co-writing a couple of the entries here, of which "My King Forever" is one of them. The anthemic build-up, however, doesn't veil the song's cliche lyrics and its pedantic chord progressions. The other Johnson contribution is the average-sounding "My Hands Are Opened," which first appeared on Bethel's "Revival's in the Air."
The rest of the songs pander on the side of average. "Your Word" is based upon the biblical account of Jesus calmed the raging sea with his voice. Such a premise, however, has been cycled through countless worship songs. Why can't songwriters explore other biblical accounts of Jesus? Many of the other songs are as creative as their titulars "Mighty God," "No Limit" and "Safe in Your Arms." Like many singer-songwriters, it's quite a challenge to record an album's worth of A class material, so there are bound to be fillers. Nevertheless, there are still some outstanding entries worth checking out.