Modern worship music has found its own genre over the years as it has grown more popular as a preferred medium for leading churches in praise. But worship music suffers from many of the same pitfalls that all genres of music must endure - sameness. There's an overwhelming amount of like artists and albums flooding the holy ground worship music is intended to fuel that it has begun to tire and wear down something that should never lose its zest. While some find comfort in familiarity, it leaves others who want a fresh way of sending praise skyward empty and hungry for something new.
St. Louis, MO worship leader and music director Mark Roach got his start writing secular music before turning his music over to our Savior earlier this decade. It was only then that doors started opening for this songwriter's music to get noticed. A few of Roach's songs have made their way onto national compilations in the past year or two, but his first national, full-length studio album releases in the form of Every Reason Why.
It's undeniable Roach has a heart for leading churches in worship. The album opener "A Thousand Hallelujahs" is a passionate anthem for singing praise, bringing to mind the popular works of Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Aaron Shust, and most other worship leaders like them. The only drawback is, while Roach's vocals are strong - especially when he lets them soar a bit - the music is really not much of a departure from so many other songs we've heard in church or at conferences and gatherings before. Even lyrically, many of the songs on Every Reason Why don't deviate too much from those we've sung many Sunday mornings for the past several years, therefore Roach's debut ultimately resembles many other worship records that have come before it.
Familiarity aside, Mark Roach certainly knows how to pen a worship song. Every Reason Why is an upbeat and uplifting collection of songs. Themes of surrender, along with the usual praise, show up several times, specifically on tracks like the more tender "Steps Of Faith," the aptly titled self-dedicating "All I Can Do Is Surrender," and "The Least I Can Do." Roach also revisits a few hymns in the form of "It Is Well" and "Amazing," the latter of which mixes some of Roach's own verses into the well-known classic, "Amazing Grace." Unfortunately, the typical worship style makes these hymns feel a bit more generic, especially when "It Is Well," a song that more often works as a ballad rather than an upbeat pop song, is given a more rousing treatment. The album closer, "Foundations" is probably the album's softest offering, featuring what could arguably be the most intimate moment on the album. Roach shows his greatest strength as a songwriter when it seems more on a personal level than when he's writing for a congregation.
Fans of traditional worship music will find a lot to like in Mark Roach's debut Every Reason Why. Unfortunately, Roach doesn't offer anything different for the genre, and much of the songs sound too familiar in sound and lyrical formula to really define Mark as an artist to stand out from the rest. With a little more artistic exploration in a move to find some of his footing, Roach could be a leader of not only congregations but fellow worship song writers. But in the meantime, you can definitely expect to hear more from Roach in your Sunday morning services.- Review date: 7/22/07, written by John DiBiase
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