Prime Cuts: Crazy About You, Empty, Has to Be God
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
Wells describes his music not as an escape but as an entrance. His songs are so crafted that they allow us to enter life to search for its meaning and purpose. If this is the goal of Wells' third album and his first for Capitol Records/CCMG Joy in the Morning, then he has succeeded. These songs are just background muzak for one to cruise around on a hot summer afternoon. Rather, these lyrics are searching; they allow us to examine some of the blind spots in our lives. Yet, the album is also fun to listen to: the up-tempo tunes are fresh, positive, and infectious. And the ballads (which are the high points of the record) find Wells at his emotional best.
Commencing with the single "Fake It" (featuring Aaron Cole), the song sets the direction of the record. Rather than hiding behind the scaffolds of social conventions, Wells encourages us to be authentic. Authenticity is the echoing message right through the album. And this theme can't be more transparent than on the R&B-stylized "Come Home." A contemporary take on the story of the Prodigal Son, "Come Home" beckons us to abandon the fleeting pleasures of this world for the everlasting joys of the father's home. Meanwhile, the infectious "Up" is a slice of summer fun with its electronic clap drums setting the dance pace.
Then we have a trio of ballads which are the nerve center of the record. "Empty" is a modern-day re-working of the book of Ecclesiastes. Without sounding condescending, Wells pinpoints how we are hearts are restless until we find our rest in God. The gentle "Crazy About You" is a beautiful love letter from God to us. Filled with lots of warm assurances of how much Jesus loves us, this song deserves to be heard again and again. "Has to Be God" finds Wells sitting at his piano singing the praises of the father. When Wells get up, close, and personal like that, you can feel yourself worshipping with him.
The title cut "Joy in the Morning" continues the balladry streak without sounding too distinctive. Nevertheless, this is a consistently good album. It's one that feeds both the heart and mind. On one hand, we can't help but feel every emotion of the song. On the other hand, the lyrics will get us thinking about our priorities of life.