There's something very special about watching someone grow in their Christian walk, much like watching a race being won by a child whose first steps you witnessed. Those who have followed Bethany Dillon's musical career have seen her grow from a wistful, passionate teenager to a loving, conflicted young adult to a maturing, enlightened woman - all while continually growing in her faith and sharing her love of Jesus with the world.
Bethany Dillon's fifth full-length album, Stop & Listen, is a careful, heartfelt collection of sweet melodies and worshipful lyrics that chronicle her spiritual growth. She doesn't take as many chances with melody and instrumentation as she did with her first and second albums, which lands this album squarely in safe, adult contemporary territory. But if the listener isn't expecting to hear something ground breaking, the album is very easy to listen to.
"Get Up And Walk," the opening track, has a driving beat and smokier feel than the rest of the album, and it works well in this subdued celebration of God's transforming power. "I woke this morning crippled/and now I'm dancing," she sings, setting the tone for an album full of imagery about lives changing.
The theme continues with the upbeat "Everyone To Know" and the pensive "I Am Yours," exploring God's love and acknowledging that "I am not my own/I am Yours/You have called me out of shadows/out of darkness into light." Both songs would be great with just a voice and acoustic guitar, and though they're well-produced, I found I wanted less band and more Bethany by this point through the album.
The poppy title track, "Stop & Listen," tells a common Dillon story about needing to spend more time with the Lord, and the rewards that come with her times of meditation and devotion. While the background "la la la" track is a little Disney pop, it sure is a catchy tune and an encouraging message.
"Say Your Name" is the album's first glimpse of Dillon's struggle to balance her new life as a married woman and her walk with Christ. You can almost see her in quiet time with her Bible and guitar as she sings, "It all looks different/but that doesn't mean anything has changed/Still I reach for you when I am afraid/and this breath that comes from you/helps me say your name." It's a lovely reminder that no matter how our lives change, God is the same and we can still know Him.
"So Close" is an arms-raised appeal that God "won't forget this wandering child," because she is "so close to being so far away from You." The simple instrumentation on this track is wonderfully reminiscent of her early work and solidifies the back-to-basics message.
The next three tracks, "Reach Out," "Deliver Me" and "The Way I Come to You," look at the necessity of God's intervention to change a person's heart. Any of the three would be at home in your local church's contemporary worship service, although hopefully without the strange rock-opera organ in "Reach Out."
The penultimate track, "In The Beginning," is a classic Dillon set-to-music scripture song. This woman spends time with her Bible and does a wonderful job showcasing the musicality of not just the poetry of the Old Testament but also the prose of the New. This song also highlights Dillon's maturing vocal talent, proving a depth and ease of range that sometimes gets lost in her busier songs.
The final track is called an acoustic version of "Everyone To Know," but it plays more like a kind of remix. The harmonizing vocals and up-front acoustic guitar gives a living room service/sing-along feeling to the song, and is a joyful ending to a thoughtful, well-produced, conservative album from a woman striving to share her heart.- Review date: 9/6/09, written by Miriam DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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