When Jason inked a contract with Centricity Records in 2006 after a run of more than a decade as a hard-touring indie artist, he did so after a lot of soul-searching, wondering how his highly relational artistry would translate to a broader audience. Now with the release of his third studio album for Centricity, A Way To See In The Dark, that tension can probably be laid to rest. What emerges on the new project is a thought-provoking collection of artful, emotional and radio-friendly tunes that achieve a high level of accessibility without sacrificing any of Gray’s personality or creativity.
Jason Gray’s songwriting has consistently earned the respect of his artist peers, largely for his uncanny ability to absorb images, emotions and truths from a variety of sources: theology, literature, relationships, his own struggles, pop culture, poetry, etc., and to pull together those diverse strands into a unified whole. Over the years he has developed a razor sharp knack for saying deep things in a way that the rest of us can relate to.
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A Way To See In The Dark| Posted September 09, 2011 After nearly 10 years in the music business working at a handful of record companies, I now find myself on the other side of the coin. A record buyer. A concert attender. A music lover. Nearly a year has come and gone since my departure from Centricity Music, though my relationship with Jason Gray, who calls Centricity his label home, has remained close. After traveling the country visiting radio stations, churches, coffee shops and festivals--promoting singles and introducing his music to music buyers, pastors and program directors--I find myself now simply a “fan.”
A few months ago, I got a call from him telling me that he wanted to send his new record over for me to listen through and share with him my thoughts. This is my open take on A Way To See In The Dark as I experienced that morning and as I continue to experience, which I invite you to be a part of, instead of another “you should buy this album” review.
From the very first downbeat of the kick drum and handclaps, to the triumphant choir singing in unison at the close of the record, “thank you, thank you, Jesus,” I am overwhelmed by how dynamic and rich this album is. It's full of fertile lyrics that stretch your heart and urge you to challenge the way you see and experience spiritual principles, which have been talked about, since the beginning of your walk with Christ.
The themes that run through this record tackle and respond to simple, yet very difficult ideas.
Jason starts the record off by calling us back to remember our true identity as children of God who are easily distracted by fear, doubt and our own selfishness. “Remind Me Who I Am” opens up and sets the pace for the album reminding us that we are all the “prodigal son”--running away from truth, peace and safety as we search for our own satisfactions. “When I lose my way, and I forget my name, remind me of who I am.”
Jason next song takes us to the ground floor spiritually when he sings the song “The End of Me,”“Cause everything here had to fall apart, but in the ruins of a broken heart I found peace like a river to attend my soul. Hope like running over when I let go. I found joy that was hidden for all these years, and love overflowing to wash over everything. Here at the end of me”.
These songs, I believe, sets the stage for many harder spiritual topics that Jason will be exploring over the next 12 songs. Jason is urging us to reset our spiritual compasses, and get our eyes back on Christ as we take our first steps of this journey together.
One of the biggest topics that Jason discusses on this album is fear. Fear is one of the hardest things that most people deal with on a daily basis. In a time where seemingly everything around us causes worry, doubt and fear, the topic is timely. In the song “No Thief Like Fear” the music starts with a heavy melody in the verses swelling and crashing back and forth almost hinting it’s anxious theme. Then comes the bridge, and the tension is musically released when he sings, ”I am free, I am free. Oh my God has set me free. From these chains I am released. For you my God have set me free.” The song is almost a prayer for relief from the burden of fear and worry.
Fear is also addressed with the song “Fear Is Easy, Love Is Hard.” From 24-hour news agencies, health scares, global disasters, losing a job, or worrying about the bills stacking up on the kitchen table, fear is often engrained into our everyday lives at every turn. In the song, Jason calls the listener to take the path that is difficult-trusting in God and having faith in his provision, protection, and wisdom over blindly giving in to our anxieties and difficulties.
There is also a song on this album that could very well be one of the best radio choruses Jason has ever recorded. “Good To Be Alive” is not only the song that will make you want to roll down your car windows and sing at the top of your lungs, but also one of the brightest moments on this record. “I want to live like there’s no tomorrow. Love like I’m on borrowed time. It’s good to be alive.” The song has a hook like the best written Switchfoot song, and the bridge is probably the coolest musical moment on the entire project. This is the song that you will find yourself playing on your road trips across the country with your closest friends.
In songs like “A Way To See In The Dark” and “The Sound Of Our Breathing,” you can sing along with the chorus after the first listen, and later will find yourself thinking about the lyrics like, “And I'll reach for Your hand in the night when the shadows swallow the light. Cause I’m giving up, giving in, once again childlike faith is my only way to see in the dark..
But A Way To See In The Dark also has the old school Jason Gray songs on this record. The songs that seem to appear blur a line between Bob Dylan and the best Sara Groves album tracks. The songs that appear not as a shot as the next radio “hit” by commercial standards, but the melodies and words that showcase Jason for who he is...a man born from the prairies of Southern Minnesota. A part of the country where open fields, and harsh winters produce a rugged individualism for those who farm and work it’s land.
“The Other Side,”“I Will Find A Way” and “Without Running Away” feature this side of Jason. The “Jason Gray” that you may have heard on previous albums, which focus more on deep soul searching and soft acoustic guitar licks. These are the songs that withstand the latest radio hit, and are remembered in music libraries generations later.
In the song “Without Running Away,” Jason gets as dangerously close to letting the listener into real life moments as I have ever heard from him. It’s a song that deals with the darkest parts of life, when all seems unfixable and hope is hard to maintain. He writes for those who feel like giving up. Like life isn’t worth living anymore and it's easier to give up. “It’s not I’m trying to be optimistic. If the truth be told I’d rather dismiss it and be free of the burden of the living that hoping requires. To bring my heart to every day, and run the risk of fearlessly loving without running away.” This is a song that urges the listener that no matter how dark life can get sometimes, that hope is always around the corner. It reminds us that Christ is our hope when everything is falling apart around us. It begs the listener to fight when the fight has gotten out of hand.
There is no better example of Jason’s musical and lyrical progression on this album then on the song “I Will Find A Way.” He called me up one day when sharing thoughts about this album, and described it as “I believe it’s the best song I have ever written.”
For my money, I think there is another song that could contend in the “best J-Gray song” category. It’s the song on the album for me, the song that has been played on repeat more than any other on the album...”Nothing Is Wasted.” It is probably the best melody he has ever written, with a lyric as simple but meaningfully refreshing as any CCM album released in the last 5 years has brought us. It is easy to forget that there is nothing more valuable to our Creator than his children. Whether our biggest failures, actions that can make us seemingly unlovable, or our most prideful accomplishments, God continues to mold us and use us for His glory and purposes. “What if every tear you cry will seed the ground where joy will grow? Nothing is wasted. Nothing is wasted. In the hands of our redeemer nothing is wasted.”
A Way To See In The Dark is appropriately closed with an almost hymn like song called “Jesus We Are Grateful.” This song could have easily fit on the City On A Hill collection that was released a few years ago. The lyrics are surprisingly simple yet powerful, kneeling in front of Jesus in order to show gratitude and proclaim His goodness.
CLOSING THOUGHTS This is not only one of the finest albums of 2011, but also one of the most complete albums, song for song, that I have heard from a Christian artist since Andrew Peterson’s Love and Thunder.
I LOVE this album, and can not get it out of my car stereo and iPod as I still frequently travel across the country. I not only highly recommend this album to my friends and family, but it’s the first time my mother has ever asked for one of my “artist friends” email so she could write him a letter because she liked the CD so much.
Jason Gray is not only one of best up and coming Christian artists of the last few years, but is finding his swing even more with each new song, and each new record.
Jason Gray [A Way To See In The Dark]| Posted September 02, 2011 I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release A Way To See In The Dark by Jason Gray, a Christian singer-songwriter in the style of Derek Webb, Bebo Norman, Andrew Peterson and Shaun Groves.Jason’s fixation on redemption is based on his history as a kid with a chronic stutter who eventually discovered his calling as a singer meant that his weaknesses are nothing to hide.In fact, because of our weaknesses God’s grace and strength are perfectly revealed. Jason says“I'm actually grateful now that my speech handicap never afforded me the option of masking my weakness behind an illusion of competency. Whenever I opened my mouth, there it was for all to see... I couldn't fool others or myself. I think the best thing that can happen to us is to be 'found out' for all that we are, our religious and human pretenses stripped away to reveal our sin, pettiness, and weakness. Then we can devote our energies to better endeavors than the constant masquerade of sufficiency.”Those comments sum up the theme of Jason’s newest release A Way To See In The Dark which is the top album by Jason Gray and one of the best albums of the year.
Look no further than first single and opening track “Remind Me Who I Am” for Jason’s heart and transparent song-writing style. I have played the song non-stop since I first heard it. It is hooky and filled with biblical Truth just like Jason’s hit song “More Like Falling In Love.” The lyrics, “If I’m Your beloved, can You help me believe it?” keep the theme from “I Am New” going, which is that if we would only run to Christ, He would remind us who we really are. For sure, the first four tracks are all catchy, upbeat and should all find their way onto Christian radio. The next songs, “The End of Me” and “No Thief Like Fear” are vintage Jason Gray songs. Jason is at the top of his songwriting game with these songs, with incredible lyrics in both songs, “the end of me is not the enemy, it’s where mercy gets the better part of me,” and “I know insecurity is the worst of my own enemies.” Jason consistently finds a way to express my own spiritual feelings and prayerful yearnings of my heart. As if those songs weren’t impressive enough, “Good To Be Alive” which was co-written with Brandon Heath and Jason Ingram will remind you of Brandon’s recent hit song “Your Love” both musically and lyrically. Jason yet again yields his signature “gourmet” stamp in the bridge where he croons “I won’t take it for granted, I won’t waste another second, All I want is to give You, A life well lived, to say “thank you.” Jason is my songwriter of the year.
The next half of the album is musically more similar to his past folk-style songs, and includes some of my favorite tracks on the album, especially “Without Running Away,” which is my favorite overall song on the album. The song is a heartfelt ballad and the chorus sticks with me as a daily prayer, “and bring my heart, to every day, and run the risk of fearlessly loving, without running away.” Piano based “Nothing Is Wasted” is another gem, with the opening lyrics “the hurt that broke your heart, and left you trembling in the dark” starts part one of the title track and flows seamlessly into “A Way To See In The Dark,” which is the thesis statement of the album and continues the message from “Nothing Is Wasted in the hands of the Redeemer” with the answer to the prayerful seeking in the chorus, “I’ll reach for Your hand in the night…’cause I’m giving up, giving in, once again a childlike faith is my only way to see in the dark.” Amen.
CLOSING THOUGHTS The basic message behind Jason’s songs is that “the added benefit is that people are able to see how God's grace works in a real person's life. When we come clean about our brokenness, Christ becomes the star of our testimony and not us.”If you like folk-style pop music, then Jason Gray is for you.I recommend picking up this great album along with Everything Sad Is Coming Untrue and All The Lovely Losers to get the full experience of Jason’s music.I’ve been very blessed to enjoy Jason’s songs and get to know his heart for God. I get welled up praying along with several of the songs. I love albums that have a consistent message and theme and that move me emotionally, such as Ocean by Bebo Norman, See You by Josh Wilson and Leaving Eden by Brandon Heath. In fact, if you like those albums, then you must get A Way To See In The Dark by Jason Gray.
Jason Gray Ways to See in the Dark| Posted September 25, 2012
This album was released nearly a year ago but I am just now beginning to fully appreciate it! With A Way to See in the Dark, Jason Gray has created an album that is both radio friendly and artistically significant. With a heavy emphasis on percussion and acoustic guitar, the songs Gray has crafted feel both intimate and explosive at the same time. The overarching theme of the album is the idea of overcoming fear. Songs like "No Thief Life Fear" and "Fear is Easy, Love is Hard" obviously address the theme in a straightforward yet powerful manner where "Remind Me Who I Am", "Nothing is Wasted", "I Will Find a Way" and "Without Running Away" take a more subtle approach. Musically, this is straight up singer-songwriter pop with catchy melodies and big choruses. What sets Way to See apart is the variety of drum sounds throughout the record. From the driving beat of "Remind Me Who I Am", to the foot-stomping country feel of "There's No Thief Like Fear" to the sunny radio pop of "Good to Be Alive" to the off-beat syncopated drum pattern of the stellar closing worship track "Jesus, We Are Grateful", you're not going to hear the same drum pattern twice (something many CCM artists should learn from). What was most impressive to me with this album though was Gray's ability to weave Bible characters, doctrine and confessional truth into each and every song. So much is said in the smallest of lines ("Jesus who rescues us from the wrath to come/You are the "Ark of God" to save us from the flood/ You are right to judge my sinful heart/ But Your glory is Your mercy" and "I was dead in all my sin and shame till You spoke my resurrection" from "Jesus We Are Grateful"; "Every chapter that we've been through has taught me to rely on You- Jesus, teach me that again!" from "The Other Side"; "Run the risk of fearlessly loving, without running away" from "Without Running Away")
With A Way to See in the Dark, Jason Gray has found the perfect balance between pop and artistry and has created one of the best pieces of music of the past year.
Radio Ready: "Remind Me Who I Am", "Good To Be Alive", "The End of Me", "A Way to See in the Dark" (look for "I Will Find a Way" to show up around Christmas this year...)
iPod Picks: "Remind Me Who I Am", "Good To Be Alive", "There's No Thief Life Fear", "Fear is Easy, Love is Hard", "Jesus We Are Grateful"
A Way to See in the Dark, Jason Gray does it again.| Posted September 06, 2011
Jason just gets better and better. Consistently good. This is a man so real, humble and after God's own heart. I love this guy and listening to his music makes me smile. This new album delivers, loved it. He is such a pleasure to see in person and I would encourage anyone having the opportunity, to go see him.
Ranging artist's vocals (Kearney, For King and Country)?| Posted September 05, 2011
Jason Gray, i have heard of that name somewhere, whether it was on the radio, or his songs seem to be everywhere. The song that had me hooked is "I will find a way," I believe that the song was describing his future wife and how the Lord delivered her from things, that were stopping her life from going forward. Jason Gray in one of the songs reminded me of the Mat Kearney of Christian music, with the worshipful lyrics. I kept thinking that the genre of music that he is playing is worship/pop/folk. He also reminded me of For King and Country, formerly known as the group Joel and Luke, his vocals ranged from many different artists. His lyrics and sound as always were changing to grasp the listener's attention. Overall, his sound, his voice, and his message, although the same were very different.