Uniqueness in today's Christian pop rock scene is something that many artists strive for but few ever attain. It takes someone special to break the mold, to throw out convention, and bring a fresh sound into the world of music. This special someone has arrived in the persona of 15 year-old Bethany Dillon. With deeply insightful lyrics and a majestic combination of musical styles, Bethany Dillon announces her arrival with what could easily be the best debut album in recent memory, if not years. From the delicate openings of "Revolutionaries," to the closing triumphant anthem "A Voice Calling Out," Ms. Dillon displays skill and passion well beyond her years.
The album opens with the folk inspired "Revolutionaries," an appeal to the masses to walk away from the weak standards that have been set by society and to follow God's path and reach for their dreams. The bold statements "Dreaming all the time is not foolish" and "Come with me, they'll call us revolutionaries" cry out for change in a society that persistently tells people to conform. "Great Big Mystery" shows that Bethany can rock with the best, while contemplating why God loves us so much, despite our shortcomings. The album's first single, "Beautiful," is a moving personal look into Ms. Dillon's own thoughts about how every young woman feels when looking at themselves in the mirror. "I want to hear you say / who I am is quite enough / I want to be worthy of love / and Beautiful" is a cry out to God for acceptance in the face of her own insecurities, a battle we all face with every passing day. "Move Forward" and "For My Love" are equally strong in music and message. They show Ms. Dillon's musical depth by merging sounds of the 60's and 70's into the music of today. The bridge portion of "For My Love" will have some dusting off their old vinyl albums with its Dan Fogelberg-esque harmonies. If there's such a thing as a "weakest song" on this album, "All I Need" would fall into this category. Although the song has a nice hook and is well spirited, it doesn't quite live up to the standard set by the rest of the album.
"Aimless" is a beautifully delivered ballad about humankind's tenure here on Earth, and that we're not meant to remain here, but to ultimately be with God. "Lead Me On" is an excellent cover of Amy Grant's classic song. Ms. Dillon takes the music and crafts it to her own, easily equaling or bettering it's original. "Exodus" strikes a unique balance between pop-rock and bluegrass. It plays on themes from its Old Testament namesake with thought provoking lyrics such as "Lead Lord with unfailing love those / that You have ransomed./ We will sing out as we go on / 'our God is faithful; our God is faithful'." "Why" is a vivid depiction of what all Christians go through from time to time, walking away from God only to discover how much we actually needed Him to begin with. "I've put you on / like an old pair of shoes / I've put you off / and now I need you" depict our complacency and eventual realization of our need for faith in a simplistic, yet profound testimony.
The final song on the album, "A Voice Calling Out," is the quintessential tour-de-force of faith and music in harmony with one another. Right from the inspiring bagpipe intro, you know you're about to be a part of something special. "Voice" is Ms. Dillon's battle cry for the generations to stand up for the coming of God's great kingdom in a world that desperately needs Him. Spiritually charged lyrics such as "I hear a Voice / Heaven's battle cry / Rise / I see the sunlight / Heaven's heartbeat / see it moving / what was a whisper is now / a voice calling out" pull the listener into a state of joyous worship.
It's very easy for music to follow a formula, to play within pre-established boundaries to achieve success. Bethany Dillon has written her own formula and it's deeply rooted in her faith and passion for God. It would be simple to draw comparisons to Jennifer Knapp, or even secular artists such as Michelle Branch, to describe Bethany Dillon's style. However, she's worthy of acknowledgement to her own style, one that comes from every part of her Christian self. While not perfect, Bethany Dillon's self-titled release stands alone as a unique musical accomplishment. Expect great things from her in the future, as she's only just getting started with her career. In a testament to her song "Beautiful," I can say only one thing to this remarkable new talent: She has given us a glimpse inside her heart, and we are amazed.Review date: 4/17/04, written by J. Good for Jesusfreakhideout.com
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