It's been awhile since we've heard from FFH, but founding members Jeromy and Jennifer Deibler had laid low in recent years for good reason. The band took a sabbatical in 2006 before the Deiblers relocated to South Africa for half a year to train worshp leaders at a church there. In 2007, Jeromy was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and the songs on their latest project, Wide Open Spaces were greatly inspired by the turmoil of this season of their lives.
Now just the Deibler twosome, FFH's Wide Open Spaces channels the group's roots for a poppy, jazzy mix of upbeat tunes and contemplative ballads. When the pair aren't taking turns on lead vocals or singing about their spiritual trials, they're reflecting on the support of each other's love, like in the fun and funky "The Time Of My Life" or the acoustic "I Don't Care Anymore," which declares Jeromy's affection for his wife that has grown during times of separation.
The upbeat love songs help hold together the surrounding tracks inspired by the brokenness and struggles the couple has gone through, illustrating a well-rounded picture of their journey together - romantically and spiritually. Jennifer takes the vocal reigns on "What If Your Best," lyrically expressing the fear of embracing God's best when it may involve pain and sacrifice. "Stop The Bleeding" is a prayerful petition for Christ to intervene and end a period of suffering, "Come and stop the bleeding / I think I finally understand / So come and stop the bleeding / I've tried to fix this, but I can't / so come and stop the bleeding / I know You can."
Stylistically, FFH selects some great musical dressings for their lyrical musings. Much of the acoustic pop has a classic feel, and the team know what their limitations are for the most part. Jennifer usually sticks to a more southern flavor when she sings, like on "What If Your Best" and the title track, but for "Who I'm Gonna Be," she strains a bit too much vocally during the chorus, while the verses work rather nicely. Jeromy sounds as skilled as ever, while his occasionally breathy style of delivery (especially on the opener "Undone" and "I Don't Care Anymore," among others spots sprinkled throughout the album) will be an acquired taste for some (His singing, however, does sound more natural without it).
When all is said and done, FFH's latest should especially please fans of the group and is a wonderful listen for anyone needing a contemporary pop dose of encouragement. Even in the worshipful moments of Wide Open Spaces, the pair steer clear of musical and lyrical cliches, leaving the album with a fresh pop feel. About fifteen years into their musical career, the Deiblers are still producing strong inspirational pop music, and their latest effort was worth the wait.- Review date: 7/15/10, written by John DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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