Worship leader and songwriter Meredith Andrews made an impression on audiences with her radio singles "You're Not Alone" and "Can Anybody Hear Me," personal songs displaying her big voice through intimate, heart-tugging lyrics. But for the Chicago worship leader, church music is the core of her work, the majority of her albums taking a vertical focus with her songwriter's touch. On her latest record, Worth It All, she brings focus to the leader role, perhaps even more than in her last two records, and delivers a set of songs designed for corporate worship.
From the start, the music here feels distinctly church friendly. While she certainly has the vocal power for big songs and high-reaching notes, this time Andrews opts for a gentler touch that is more like leading a congregation than performing for a crowd. The production is subdued, the melodies singable. Even the background vocals, lightly mixed in, come off as a congregation of voices responding to the choruses.
Whether the church-like feel is a plus or a drawback to the album is a tough call to make and mostly depends on what the listener is looking for. The overall effect, like many worship albums, is a production style that plays it safe. While the sound is even and relaxing, some variations come along, like "Burn Away" in the album's middle, one with a swelling chorus and passion to back it, or the subdued meditation "The Gospel Changes Everything," reflecting on how Jesus changed both history and individual hearts. Only the closing track "Pieces" veers away from the worship style into something more poppy and upbeat, giving the sense of a bonus track more than part of the record.
However, those looking for some new worship music could find it easy to get swept up into these songs. For one thing, even on the mellowest tracks, the choruses are singable and catchy. One listen to "Open Up the Heavens" or "Strong God" is enough to lodge the chorus in the listener's mind. The lyrics themselves, while simple to learn, are well thought-out and Christ-centric, honoring God's steadfastness ("Not for a Moment"), strength ("Strong God"), and transformative power ("Burn Away," "The Gospel Changes Everything").
It's hard to say if the songs on Worth It All are the stuff of classics, but as far as this sort of album goes, Andrews seems to have found her best, most comfortable place in gently reverent church music that focuses the listener on Christ. Her sincerity, singable tunes, and relaxed style offer some new options for the Sunday morning setlist, or perhaps a soundtrack for quiet time in the car. It may not be the most creative new worship album, but Worth It All sounds like a musician at home, in her element, leading others into God's presence.
- Review date: 1/22/13, written by Jen Rose of Jesusfreakhideout.com