Posted January 08, 2013
You might say Jason Castro has been forging his path. The American Idol alum (fourth place, Season 7) released his eponymous pop debut in 2010 on Atlantic Records. Six months later, Atlantic Records and Word Records teamed up to re-introduce Castro to the Christian market with Who I Am, an album comprised of five songs from his debut combined with five new faith-based songs. One gets the sense that professionally, young Castro, who had joined the I Am Second campaign, was trying to find a place where he belonged. Fast forward to 2013, and Jason Castro is releasing Only A Mountain, his first full-length Word Records release.
If you are familiar with Castro’s earlier, primarily acoustic sound, you’ll notice that he and producers Matt Bronlewee, Ben Glover, and David Garcia have amped things up. In a sense, Castro is starting anew. And he appears to have label support as he readies to promote the record on tour beginning with Winter Jam.
Castro has written or co-written all eleven songs on Only a Mountain. Informed by his family life and spiritual journey, the compositions explore themes of faith and hope. Castro sings with confidence on lead single and title track “Only a Mountain”, inspired by Matthew 17:20, where Jesus explains to the apostles that faith “the size of a mustard seed” has the power to move mountains. Castro sings with conviction, and he is already hearing stories about how God is reaching people through this song.
Castro passionately declares his faith with “I Believe”: “In my darkest night you’ll guide me / I believe / When I lose my way you’ll find me / I believe / When I can’t see any way out, I find / And when I cannot see, I believe”. Built on the strength of this terrific chorus, “I Believe” is a beautiful song that feels like you’ve heard it before. That’s not to say it’s derivative, but rather it’s a compliment to a strong melody that creates an instant feeling of familiarity. Castro says it is his wife’s favorite. I think it’s also mine.
“If It’s Love” is a personal song shaped by the demands and difficulties that touring can bring, and the friction the road can cause in his relationship with his wife. The message: “If it’s love, then love is worth the fight”.
Another song about a different kind of relationship, “Starting Line” is an energetic take on the spiritual awakening that brings about a new beginning when faith becomes more tangible and personal. He aptly expresses this with the line, “[it] feels so good to finally meet you”.
Castro sings of the transforming power of grace on “Stay This Way”. Genuine and inviting, rather than intimidating and preachy, the song should reach listeners and touch hurting hearts. Castro explores brokenness and the universal need for grace with the captivating “Same Kind of Broken”. Moriah Peters joins in, her voice blending delightfully with his, on this intimate but lush number that encourages unity and brotherly love.
Hoping to draw awareness and call listeners to action, Castro wrote “Safehouse” in response to his involvement at a benefit event in Dallas to build the first Safe House in Texas where victims of sex trafficking could find refuge.
“Runaway” is the rocker of the record, and Castro delivers it with abandon. I had to overcome a hurdle before I could embrace this song. I wrestled with the fear that by giving positive connotations to the term runaway, Castro may have unintentionally glamorized running away. However, once I made peace with the fact that he’s talking about fleeing from the world and running toward God, I grew to love the song. When you think about our Heavenly future, Christ followers will all be runaways. But instead of running from home, we will finally have reached it.
“Enough” is a moving musical letter to his daughter. This will be a wonderful song for girls, but it is a message everyone needs to hear. I particularly like the final bridge: “We’ve all got pieces, we’ve got bruises / Grace can cover them up / Don’t have to be somebody perfect/ Cause you’re enough”.
“Rise to You” finds hope through faith even in darkness. I was surprised to read this song was almost not recorded. We all have those dark days, and listeners will find encouragement here.
Castro rounds out the album with the ebullient “Good Love”. What a happy, bouncy piece of joy! Castro has said that he aspires to “be undeniable”. Congratulations, Jason! “Good Love” is just that – undeniable!
Jason Castro has always had a strong, original voice. Up until now, his records haven’t had the strength of material to match it. However, with Only A Mountain, he has come into his own. His songwriting has matured, his music has grown more robust and varied, and his performance is consistently passionate and energetic. If listeners embrace it, Only A Mountain could be a breakthrough album for a bright new talent.
“I Believe”, “Starting Line”, “Stay This Way”, “Enough”, and “Good Love”
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