Elevation Worship and Maverick City Music “Old Church Basement” Album Review
Prime Cuts: Mercy (featuring Chris Brown), Names (featuring Tiffany Hudson), Wait on You (featuring Dante Bowe and Chandler Moore)
Overall Grade: 4.25/5
In a genre that is getting predictable, Elevation Worship and Maverick City Music have joined forces to shake up worship music. Eradicating the tacit divide between Gospel Music and CCM, many of these worship songs have a free-flowing Gospel vibe and lots of ab-libs. Moreover, many of songs have a more personal and even a narrative framework. This adds dimension to worship songs who may often be too "professional" sounding, stripped of individuality. Case in point being "Talking to Jesus;" the song is framed by the narrative of co-writer Steven Furtick's recollection of hearing the power of his grandmother's prayers.
Title track and album opener "Old Church Basement" sets the tenure for the record. Rescuing worship music from the glamor of stage lights and the crowd of a thousand lifted hands, "Old Church Basement" is a clarion call back to worshipping God in simplicity and earnestness. Most endearing is that the song references lines from classic worship songs (Delirious?'s "Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble" and Darlene Zschech's "Shout to the Lord") as well as hymns. Already a #1 Billboard gospel song, "Jireh" features the duet vocals of Chandler Moore and Naomi Raine. The song is a powerful ballad indulging us in a 10-minute engagement with our provider God.
Rather than standing aloof and distinct from the songs' lyrics, the team weaves in their testimonies in tracks like "Mercy," "Million Little Miracles," and "Wait on You." "Mercy," in particular, is particularly heartfelt. Searingly honest lyrics such as "I thought I deserved/Oh, to be six feet beneath the earth/For all the things I've done, the things I've said/The choices made that I regret/Oh, I would still be lost/Oh, but for the mercy of God," strike a heart string or two.
"Shall Not Want," a contemporary reworking of Psalm 23, has a raw Gospel-ish feel that ought to be a favorite for those who like their worship spontaneous. Elevation Worship's Tiffany Hudson puts her beautiful vocals to work on "Names." The song is a valentine to Jesus stripped of all the secular love song cliches. Rather, songwriters, Hudson, Jason Ingram and Amanda Lindsey Cook, have taken the images of Jesus from all across Scripture to sculpt this masterpiece. Amanda Lindsey Cook herself gets her chance on the microphone with "Before and After." Unfortunately, the song is set in a key far too low that Cook has to whisper through the verses.
The major weaknesses of this record are that most of the songs are (very) long and they are mostly ballads. The entire record, with only 13 songs, clocks in at 1 hour and 43 minutes. To have to listen to 13 ballads back to back in a span of nearly two hours, the experience can be on the taxing and tedious side. Other than this, Old Church Basement, as the title suggests, isn't an exercise of glamor and applause. Rather, it's worship music that is personal, biblical, and heartfelt.
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