The book of Psalms, the Bible's handbook on worship, is filled with many different kinds of praise. Some Psalms (the Hebrew word for "songs") are pure reflection on the awe-inspiring nature of God, His goodness, His holiness and on down the incalculable list. Some Psalms are prayers for help in the midst of trouble, and for God's justice to be shown to evil-doers. And some Psalms are moments of personal worship by David or other writers in response to the Lord bringing them through the fire and back again.
Plumb, who is approaching 18-plus years of musical life under that stage name, has had a crazy few past years, as documented in her recent book Need You Now - A Story of Hope, and that has inspired her to write her first complete collection of worship material, Exhale. And believe it or not, this is an uncommon approach to in the worship music field. Much of the corporate worship music being written nowadays falls into the first category of worship, and while that's fine on one level, it's completely refreshing to hear a batch of songs that carry the worship element in response to a personal story.
The title track leads off the album with the words "It's okay to not be okay," which might sound like a profound journal entry by a seventh grader on the surface, but in Plumb's hands, the phrase comes off like a thesis statement that infuses the album with a humble and earthy quality that is immediately clear. The tune itself is a powerhouse of a lead-off track, with a crashing, soaring chorus that invites the listener to "let go, surrender, let His love wrap around you, hold you close, surrender, breathe it in then exhale." The finest moment of the song, though, is the bridge, where Plumb's yearning, expressive voice informs the listener that "we do not exist for us, but to share His grace and love, and exhale." A statement this concise, yet chock-full of meaning is the mark of a veteran artist. And as a seeming bonus, Plumb's proto-industrial-meets-epic-pop sound is greatly suited for this type of worshipful statement. "Lord I'm Ready Now," Plumb's current single on the radio (which also made its debut last year as a bonus track on a Deluxe Edition re-release of Need You Now), is a great slice of pop music that lifts the soul in all the right ways. The "sing-along" quality is high on this track, and it captures the universal feeling of wanting desperately to be done with a problem.
The following "Smoke" circles back to the fruitful metaphor of God being "the oxygen inside these weary lungs," "Resurrection" asks the poignant question, "do you believe the story we're living is not the end?" against the backdrop of majestic synths, and "Great Is Our God" is a pure statement of God's goodness and beauty set against a cinematic backdrop. The only real mis-fire here is "My True Love," a vaguely clubby tune that means well, but comes off as a slightly-plastic dance tune masquerading as a worship song (including the confusing "is she singing about God or her husband" question). One mis-step against the backdrop of eleven other great tracks is not a bad batting average at all.
The world of Christian Music could use a lot more albums like Exhale; albums that portray an honest journey of faith and doubt, of hope and pain. In the near-future, when a veteran artist's sound, sensibilities and history collide like they do here, the result should be compared against this album as the metric of how to create a worshipful document of God's faithfulness through personal upheaval.- Review date: 5/3/15, written by AlexCaldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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