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JFH Music Review


Jason Gray, 'Land of the Living'
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Jason Gray
Land of the Living



Artist Info: Discography
Genre(s): Folk Pop
Album length: 12 tracks: 40 minutes, 13 seconds
Street Date: November 17, 2023


READER RATING:   


Jason Gray has, in many ways, transitioned from new kid on the music scene ten years ago to beloved older uncle of the CCM circuit these days. With a folksy radio show on Sirius XM’s “The Message” channel, and a history of doing concerts in most any location, big or small, Gray is both a familiar face and a calming voice in his neck of the music world. Gray’s work is both a reassuring brand of folk pop and a sneaky-creative lyrical and musical fusion at the same time, and his new album (which he has released in staggered form this past year) is a continuation of this pattern.

In the press release for Land of the Living, Gray mentioned listening to a lot of Ray Charles recently, and opening track “When I Say Yes” bears this iconic influence. With a bouncy gospel music piano line and a fine backing choir, ‘Yes’ is an energetic starter for the album, and a good stretch for the normally laid-back songwriter. This bounciness continues in “When I Grow Up”, a song that has a clever and lighthearted bit of wordplay on the theme of “faith like a child”: Bring me back to A, B, Cs and my 1-2-3s / Curiosity times infinity / Trusting somebody was always watching over me / Fill me up with the wonder / So every day I’ll get a little bit younger / When I grow up I wanna be a child again /Where life feels like I’m walking home with my best Friend / In the light of a summertime that never ends / When I grow up I wanna be a child again / I wanna be a child again.”

The sobering “Questions” follows with a melancholy guitar line and a spare beat that frames a great set of lyrics about the mysterious and unknown aspects of faith: “It was in the desert that I learned to thirst for You / It was in the storm where I found Love to pull me through / It was in the fire where Your faithfulness was proved / So I can rest in the wrestling with the questions / Cuz they lead me back to You / Yeah they lead me back to You / They lead me back to You.” To “rest in the wrestling” is a terrific turn of phrase and an illuminating way of describing the tug and pull of faith in a fallen world. The following “Jesus Loves You And I Am Trying” is an equally low-key and sobering look at the ideal of who Jesus was and the challenging work of trying to look and love like he did. (The whistling in the outro to the song is a nice folksy touch too.)

“Be Kind” is a great riff on the famous saying (attributed to the Greek philosopher Plato) “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”: “Love of God flow through me now / Love of God show me how / To let You in and pour You out / Love of God show me how / Show me how to / Be kind ‘cause everyone you meet / Is fighting their own battle / Fighting their own battle (We’re all fighting our own battle) / Be kind / ‘cause everyone you see / Needs to know they matter / Needs to know they matter (We all need to know we matter)” The title track and the banjo-driven “Good Man” are also album highlights.

Land Of The Living is a continuation of what Jason Gray does very well; that is, to wrap up lofty ideas in a smooth pop wrapping, sort of like healthy ingredients that are snuck into recipes that otherwise might seem less than nutritious. There is always a need for a “professorial, older brother” presence around the pop scene, and Gray fits that bill nicely. Land of the Living is another fine outing from this veteran songwriter, with good new items to add to his musical menu.

- Review date: 11/16/23, written by Alex Caldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com



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. Record Label: Centricity Music
. Album length: 12 tracks: 40 minutes, 13 seconds
. Street Date: November 17, 2023
. Buy It: Apple Music
. Buy It: Amazon.com (CD)

  1. When I Say Yes (3:18)
  2. When I Grow Up (2:53)
  3. Questions (3:08)
  4. Jesus Loves You And I'm Trying (3:17)
  5. Be Kind (3:39)
  6. If You Don't Move (3:31)
  7. Land Of The Living (3:25)
  8. Hold Onto Hope (3:05)
  9. Worth Staying For (4:31)
  10. Good Man (3:49)
  11. See As You See (2:53)
  12. Place For Me (2:52)
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