One of Christian music's most underrated performers is back with his latest self-released album. Averaging a release a year since his 1999 5 Minute Walk debut, Reason For Living, as well as being continuously on the road touring, Justin McRoberts is one of the industry's hardest working solo artists. Grace Must Wound..., McRoberts' seventh release, takes the folk artist in a new direction, blending a southern flavor into his signature acoustic sound for a mix that proves to work strikingly well.
McRoberts' songwriting isn't for the easily offended. Much like genre-mate Derek Webb, Justin isn't afraid of stepping on toes to speak his mind. As he's become more experienced in his writing abilities over time, McRoberts has become more open and tastefully in-your-face about how he views the church and today's culture. This is evident from the get-go on Grace Must Wound... with the opening southern-flavored acoustic rock sounds of "Into Your Home," a song that begs for the listener to consider their actions when following the ways of the world and even the church. With a mix of sarcasm and truth, the chorus states, "It's 20 minutes to the perfect body / It's only months until you make your money / It's only those who know the secret prayer that gain His blessing / Don't let 'em into your home." McRoberts' cynicism towards how foolish we all can be is well warranted. "Change" smartly follows, an upbeat folk track that encourages the listener that, in order to change the way we live, we need to change the way we think and die to ourselves. "Picture Of You" is a bittersweet song that celebrates the memory of McRoberts' father who took his own life when Justin was younger. Strangely upbeat, he uses the country-glazed song to attribute the loss of his father to the notion that a man is only worth what he earns for a living, pointing fingers at the corporate world. While a highlight on the album, the song seemed to play out better emotionally when performed live as a mere stripped-down acoustic composition. "Picking Sides" is written from God's perspective as He reminds His people that His name shouldn't be used to promote any kind of agenda, "I will choose the weak ones despite your strength / I will love the hated despite your hate / I am not persuaded by your fear and anger / I am the Lord your God / ...And I do not like the way you use my name."
McRoberts continues to tread some more sensitive ground within the beautiful sounds of "Safe." Lyrically, "Safe" addresses the church's more conservative stances that may hold believers back from making a greater impact with their lives. With just an acoustic and his' soft spoken, almost lullaby vocals, McRoberts opens the song with his tongue firmly set within his cheek, "It's safe for everyone / Clean jokes and cleaner fun / Come bring the kids and wife. / Stay safe and stay alive. / We'll close and lock the doors, to keep the bad ones out / That's how we'll show them just how good it is inside this house." As the song builds, McRoberts declares "A thousand time I'd rather fall / than be afraid to move at all / After all, what is this thing that you call grace? / And is it safe?" "Bring You Down" is an edgy folk track anticipating Satan's fall, and is followed by Justin's first official love song written for his wife, "You And I." The album draws to a close with another highlight "Be Not Far Off," based on Psalm 22, and ends with the darker "Secret Of The Easy Yoke," a cover written by David Bazan (aka Pedro The Lion).
Grace Must Wound... is probably Justin McRoberts' deepest and most mature project to date. Fans of folk and acoustic music will enjoy all that this album has to offer. Despite the album's leanings towards a more country-inspired sound, the influence is wisely used sparingly to enhance the tracks without them relying solely upon it. Justin's viewpoints on the church and society may ruffle a few feathers, but his chosen song topics are worthy of thought and discussion. Grace Must Wound... may just be the best thing from McRoberts yet.- Review date: 1/7/06, written by John DiBiase
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