"When my world is shaking, heaven stands. When my heart is breaking, I never leave Your hands." Thousands of Christian radio listeners have been hooked by these lyrics in the chorus of a sweetly subtle song sung by the relatively unfamiliar voice of JJ Heller. Her independent art has been catalogued in several full-length albums since she began her music career in 2003, but after 7 years, her talent has reached the delighted ears of Christian radio authorities who quickly sent her song "Your Hands" on its way to the charts as her first major hit single.
The song is off of her Painted Red album which perfectly represents her style as an artist who poetically writes really personal and scriptural verses to express in the medium of acoustic, indie, folk pop with subtle spattering of country and jazzy flare here and there. The simplistic style is such that any decent female singer with a MacBook could easily post a cover of JJ Heller without compromising the original integrity of the song, yet at the same time, the quality of production on this record definitely gives each song a professional sound. Each little addition to the acoustic core (whether it be a dash of harmonica, shaker, violin, or xylophone), makes a sweet contribution.
Painted Red gets started with "Save Me," a bright song composed of acoustic guitar, very light touches of percussion, and BGVs by JJ's husband David Heller to weave harmonies through the beautifully sung lyrics, "…all you ask me to do / Is trust what you say is true / You are stronger / Than any terrible possible scenario today / Come and save me / You're the only source of all the peace I need…" The soft song to follow, titled "All I Need," is directly inspired by Psalm 23, and initiates fair stylistic comparisons with Jon Foreman and Bebo Norman. When listening through the record's entirety, there are no obvious standout tracks in the mid-section of the record; each song in its own way remains consistent with the artist's sound as well as lyrical beauty. Later on toward track 9, the catchy tune of "True Things" picks things up a bit with JJ declaring that she is not defined by her appearance, her money, or her flawed past, but rather she is just herself, loved and freed by her Savior Jesus Christ. Finally, the most memorable highlight of the bunch, "Your Hands" plays out just before the short and sweet title track finishes the album saying, "You have bought me with your blood / And I am painted red by your love / Ooh… If I could not say a word / My life would speak of love I don't deserve / Hope means holding on to you / Grace means you're holding me too."
Altogether, this humble Christian mother's collection of 12 honest tracks presents 37 minutes of uniquely pure lyrical and musical beauty. For most casual listeners, a smart option would be to sample several of JJ Heller's most popular songs. Then, for anyone who falls in love with her music as a fine source of soothing, easy, background music or intimate listening, Painted Red is obviously as good a buy as any other album from JJ Heller.- Review date: 6/1/10, written by Tim Harro of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Stone Table Records / Daywind
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