Prime Cuts: Becoming Human, God's Speed, Without Music (featuring Amy Grant)
Overall Grade: 5/5
Not many songwriters can reference Pinocchio and King Lear within the lyrics of a song. And not too many songs get you to think about the depravity of the human condition, death, suffering, and God's presence in ways that are probing without offending. Carolyn Arends is a deeply thoughtful and creative songwriter. She is not comfortable to construct her songs around cliches and superficial lines. Rather, with poetic beauty and ruminative imagination, she has crafted these 12 new songs. With folky and organic sounds backing these gems, Recognition is easily this CCM veteran's best album to date.
The album's titular Recognition comes from the song "Almost Didn't Recognise You." A wake-up call for those of us who think that God wanders around this world incognito, this song rightly reminds us that "this world whole universe is Your cathedral/And every heartbeat is Your song." If you want to hear stellar songwriting, take a listen to "Pools of Tears." Loosely based on John 5, the song challenges us to seek healing rather than just sitting by the pool complaining about our brokenness. Inspired by Mark Buchanan's book, "God's Speed" speaks about how we need to slow down and start walking in pace with God. The genius of the song resides in the song's brilliant use of ironies: "We've got to slow down/To catch up/Grow young/To grow up.No more chasing the wind/Let the Spirit lead."
"Becoming Human" deserves an award for how one should talk about sin in a way that is biblically faithful yet it is not a turn-off to the non-believer. Giving copious examples of how sin has crippled the ways by which we can be fully human, the song calls for the miracle of the Gospel. Latin for "remember you will die," "Memento Mori" is a call to treasure every moment God has given us. By no means are these songs just thought-provoking, "To Cry for You" pulls on the heartstrings with its numerous poignant lines, such as "I guess grief is the work that love must do/So it is my honour to cry for you."
The record is also prided for the guests that get to sing with Arends. Most prominent being Amy Grant who sings with Arend on "Without Music." Grant sounds so much at home as the song sounds like a track Grant would have included in one of her post-2000 albums. On the whole, there is not a poorly written on the record. One listen through this record and you know that a lot of imagination, hard work ,thought, and prayers have gone into the crafting of these songs. And with the use of rustic instruments, such as the bouzouki, lap steel, flugel horn, octave mandolin and so forth, you know that these 12 songs are also impeccably executed.