Birthed in Boston, Massachusetts, and taking their name from a suburban community there, Ashmont Hill is the latest in a string of groups seeking to make an impact in the Adult Contemporary genre (following in the footsteps of the most popular headliner, Casting Crowns). Consisting of Phil Thompson, his two sisters April Joy Thompson and Deborah Bullock, and Deborah's husband Wil Bullock, Ashmont Hill drop their Axiom Records debut on May 13.
Honestly, of all the AC artists currently making waves in Christian music, these guys are one of the best. There's a freshness to their sound, an energy and soulfulness that translates well to both Top 40 charts and Sunday morning worship services regardless of the predominant ethnicity of those congregations. The vocals are crisp and well delivered, carrying with them a sense of humble expertise. And while the music is most assuredly grounded in gospel music tradition, they delve into popular territory more than a few times.
A perfect example of this merging of two musical themes is on the opener, "I Give You Worship." Opening with a very church-styled organ, the drums kick off an electric guitar riff, which builds before crashing into the verse head-long. Personally, I had a blast listening to this sort of marriage, probably because I had no clue when it would pop up next. The only downside to the entire track would be the lyrics - which brings me to my next point…
Lyrics like those found in this album are a dime a dozen. Anyone can write them, regardless of age or personal experience, because they are firmly grounded in the "buzzwords" of Christianity - a mish-mash collection of clichés and ideas so prevalent in congregations and on radio that one can predict what they're going to say long before they say it.
It's a pity, really. This group has loads of potential, a fact I've steadily grown to accept regardless of how lazy these lyrics come across. In fact, it could be argued that it's a greater testament to Ashmont Hill's talents: that I was persuaded against skipping tracks due to an appealing musical context and obvious chemistry among band mates. And that's not to say there are no highlights. "Gifted Response" and "Your Right Hand" serve as promises for a better follow-up release. Those stronger points are just so far away.
While there are definitely some benefits to giving this album a chance (particularly for a worship leader looking for a few new additions to their congregation's songbook), I still can't recommend purchasing the whole thing. It would seem best to wait for a sophomore effort, hoping, of course, that they learn from their mistakes this time around.- Review date: 3/23/08, written by Johnny Wofford
Record Label: Axiom Records
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