Chris August is not a stranger to the music industry. As a former band member for Ashlee Simpson (non lip synch version) and having recorded a previously unreleased album, his talents in the past would help pave way for one of Word Records newest artists. The influences he drew from Boys II Men, Brian McKnight and Babyface are evident on his debut album, No Far Away.
Having developed a knack and a passion for producing, Chris played a big part in producing his debut album, along with industry staple Ed Cash. His soulful voice and musical influences are highlighted on this record as well as some of the spiritual content. However, a lot of this goes unnoticed as over-producing takes its toll on what could have otherwise been a great release.
While No Far Away isn't bad, several of the tracks lose their appeal due to their over polished presentation. From the beginning with "You and I," August's vocals seem too polished and layered with effects to be taken too seriously. "Battle" shows signs of some of his R&B influences and seems like if he were left to his own devices and could have a more raw vocal effect this would have been a home run. "Starry Night," a song about God's Creation, hits home with conviction and thoughts of growing up on the farm marveling at God's handiwork. "7 X 70," a definite highlight, follows with a tender piano intro. A song about offering forgiveness of hurts suffered as a youth brings a tear to the eye. The strings add another depth to the song as you can almost feel exactly where Chris is coming from. The strongest part of the album is in the bridge when Chris sings, "and that's forgive you, I forgive you." It's really powerful and you can feel that August has made a breakthrough. However, the placement of the song this early in the album's track listing is questionable, with having such a powerful track out of the way and the remainder of the album not holding the listener's attention like it could.
The title track "No Far Away" is based on Psalm 139 and has some strong guitars and a strong vocal performance. "Loving You is Easy" is reminiscent of a stripped down R&B track with some Chris Rice songwriting influences thrown in for good measure. "I'm Gonna Sing" is a worship track but seems to fall short as Chris's vocals seem to be too modified and flat and almost noncommital in the bridge. "I will not be silent, I'll become even more..." comes across as bland. "It's Always Been You" is a strong track vocally and musically as the conviction in his lyrics returns as he pleads for forgiveness in the chorus. "Winter Time" is a tender piano ballad that helps round out the end of the record as Chris sings about looking forward to winter. His vocals are toyed with slightly, which is kind of annoying when you know he doesn't have to rely on effects to have a solid song. "Canyons" is another worship track to close out the album, and his voice wraps No Far Away on a strong note as the sound of triumph returns.
In June, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Chris August and was able to hear some of the stories of these songs. Chris has the opportunity to be the male version of Sarah Kelly and Plumb. As youth groups and kids who have had family problems have a chance to hear about offering forgiveness, Chris has a chance to be a break out artist. My only gripe is with an album so beautifully written with Scriptural influences and personal experiences that reveal a person's innermost demons, it would be more that appropriate than to have honest, raw material. Chris has the talent and ability and desire to not have to rely on those trappings. Keep an eye on this artist, and see his live show to see the true, raw talent. Hopefully his sophomore record will be more of a representation of him and less tainted with someone else's fingerprints.- Review date: 8/22/10, written by Kevin Chamberlin of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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