Within Christian music, there is a rich history of artists impacting the mainstream of the industry and popular culture at large. From Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith in the late 80's and early 90's, to Jars Of Clay and dc Talk in the mid-90's, to Switchfoot and Relient K in the mid-00's, artists of faith have continually been breaking out of the bubble of CCM and finding their ways to the ears and hearts of listeners of all kinds.
Lauren Daigle's last album, the Grammy Award winning Look Up Child, was a massive crossover success that found Daigle performing on all sorts of television shows and other events outside of the CCM world. Look Up Child was far from a calculated cross-over attempt though, finishing as it did with a cover of the old hymn "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus." With a soulful voice much bigger than her slight frame would have you believe, and a great sense of classic songwriting structures, Daigle is the sort of artist that has a wide appeal, and her new self-titled album (volume one of two) will only widen her audience. With a classic instrumentation reminiscent of her previous album, Daigle's new offering sounds like it could have come from a number of different decades and features a timeless set of vocals that set Daigle apart from other singers of her era.
Kicking off with the single "Thank God I Do," Daigle immediately dials up the intimacy of former hits like "You Say" and "Rescue" in a beautiful ode to friendship: "I've seen love come and I've seen love walk away / So many questions, will anybody stay? / It's been a hard year, so many nights in tears / All of the darkness, tryin' to fight my fears / Alone So long alone / I don't know who I'd be if I didn't know You / I'd probably fall off the edge / I don't know where I'd go if You ever let go / So keep me held in Your hands / I've started breathing, the weight is lifted here / With you it's easy, my head is finally clear / There's nothin' missing when You are by my side / I took the long road, but now I realize / I'm home / With You, I'm home." While perhaps drifting a little too close to the cliched question "Is this song about the Lord, a friend or a romantic partner?" the tune still soars and achieves its goal of celebrating friendship and support in all the forms that it comes in.
The following, folksy "Saint Ferdinand" is a delightful musical left turn right out of the gate, with fellow artists - Natalie Hemby and fellow New Orleans native Jon Batiste (the musical right hand man of late night tv's Stephen Colbert) - providing the campfire feel of an ode to a street in Daigle's hometown of New Orleans: "Saint Ferdinand, my wonderland / Wild and strange, where vagabonds play Saint Ferdinand, not what I planned / For my faith, but I'm gonna stay / These streets may not look pretty / But I see angels walkin' in the city / Saint Ferdinand, my dear friend Times may change; you can't keep me away." Batiste's soulful mellotron (an instrument that sonically resembles a more pleasant-sounding accordion) and Hemby's harmonies lift this geographic song to great heights.
The soulful and funky "New" comes next, with its wild percussive swing and slightly atonal horn section accompaniment. The song feels like something you might hear on a street corner in the aforementioned New Orleans. But the best moment of the album would have to be "Kaleidoscope Jesus," a breezy worship song that floats along with a 70's soul music groove (dig that flute breakdown in the bridge) and celebrates the surprising ways that the Savior shows up in our daily lives: "How colorful the many ways You meet us (Ah-ah-ah) / Can't believe the places that we see Ya (Ah-ah-ah, ah-ah) All your revelations are so genius (Ah-ah-ah) / Kaleidoscope Jesus, Kaleidoscope Jesus / How colorful the many ways You meet us (Ah-ah-ah) / Can't believe the places that we see Ya (Ah-ah-ah, ah-ah) / All your revelations are so genius (Ah-ah-ah) / Kaleidoscope Jesus, Kaleidoscope Jesus."
Daigle's self-titled album falls just a tick below Look Up Child in overall impact but is musically as interesting and wild as the spectrum of colors on the album cover. As the first volume of the work, it will be tremendously interesting to see what is in store for volume two. Daigle's return after a few years away is a welcome, refreshing moment and this is a great album to turn up as the warmer months arrive here in the northern hemisphere.- Review date: 5/11/23, written by Alex Caldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Centricity Music / Atlantic Records
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