This world is full of brokenness, and this fact is not often in dispute. Whether it's the news headlines blaring out from a television or the news stand, or information on a more personal level--like the personal failings of a friend, or a family member's medical test results--the darkness of this world finds its way into every corner of our lives. And, oddly, Christian music rarely addresses this darkness well. In the name of being "positive," much of what gets airplay and exposure is shiny, happy music that fails to adequately or fully address the reality of the fallen world we live in.
Jason Gray seems to be on a mission to address this oversight. On album after album, Gray pokes at the darkness like few writers in Christian music do, exploring the subject with both humility and heart-breaking expertise. Largely a musing on the failure of his long-term marriage (personal failings might be the toughest kind of darkness to overcome), Where The Light Gets In could be one of the best albums of its kind, the rare species that addresses darkness without wallowing in it, and juxtaposes personal failings in light of the awesome grace of God.
Taking a cue from the sonic blueprints of Peter Gabriel and Coldplay, Where The Light Gets In also finds Gray at the top of his game musically. Opening track "Learning" might seem like familiar Jason Gray fare (sounding like a cousin to his previous hit, "Remind Me Who I Am"), second track and first single "Sparrows" spins a mournful piano line and melody into a hopeful and poetic song about God's provision. "There's not a single star that's out of place / and there's nothing broken He can't remake / if you long for hope when you're afraid / just look at the sparrows."
"I Will Rise Again" finds Gray at his most epic and show-stopping best. With a Broadway-ready musical build and an orchestral and gospel choir backdrop, Gray drops a low-register and low-key rap about loss of faith and rebirth that builds into a great crescendo that is earned, "I'm not who I was / you won't recognize me / love came down and redefined me / and piece by piece / put me back together differently." Inspiring without being cloying, and honest without being morbid, "I Will Rise Again" is a terrific and hopeful song that will sound great live.
Gray writes candidly about his divorce in "Death Without A Funeral" (possibly the best description of the gut-wrenching nature of divorce this reviewer has ever heard) and "The Wound Is Where The Light Gets In." Both songs find Gray at his most emotionally raw and vulnerable, and are bare-bones musically, with just Gray and his acoustic guitar. "Death Without A Funeral" in particular weaves as devastating a set of lyrics about divorce as have been penned in Christian music, "There's no stone to lay the flowers down beside / no mention in the paper / though something clearly died / no gathering for family and friends to eulogize / it's a death without a funeral / there's no book to sign for people filing in / no table full of pictures where they'd say 'remember when" / no song is sung about how all good things come to an end / it's a death without a funeral."
The end of the album, with its triumphant and tonally out of place "Celebrate" and "Glow In The Dark" (though both are fine songs), blunts the edge of the message a bit, but the album ends well with the mellow and reflective "Thank You." Sporting a wonderful 80's-inspired keyboard riff and programmed drums, "Thank You" is a great sounding song (think Peter Gabriel's classic "Solsbury Hill") that brings the album theme full circle and ends it well.
Where The Light Gets In is a terrific, well-crafted album that mines the darkness of its theme well, both lyrically and musically. It's by far Gray's best overall album and one of Christian music's finest statements on the how the Lord can take the mess we make and shine His light through it to make something new and wonderful.- Preview Review date: 5/31/16; Review date: 6/13/16, written by Alex Caldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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