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Matt Maher [Empty & Beautiful]
Posted September 24, 2008
By christianmusicreview,

[Main Review]

I’ve noticed in recent times that Provident Label Group has done a pretty good job in signing new and talented young musicians. In the past two years, the label has added new artists like Leeland, Brandon Heath & John Waller. Well 2008 promises to be another great year with new faces and new music, first starting with the release of newcomer Matt Maher (pronounced “Mar”) and his debut album, Empty & Beautiful.

Maher, was born and raised in New Foundland, Canada (also pronounced different then it’s spelled!) but later moved to Mesa, Arizona at the end of his college years to lend help to his now home church, St. Timothy Catholic Community. Even though Maher is a new face to many, his writing has been around for a while now and he has even established himself already as a successful writer having had artists in the likes of Chris Tomlin, Bethany Dillon and Philips, Craig & Dean record his music. Empty & Beautiful is wonderfully written making sure to cover just about every area of life that the average Christian faces each day.

The album starts out with the song “Your Grace Is Enough” which Matt recalls as being the ‘oldest’ song on the record. The song had been recorded by Chris Tomlin on his 2004 album, Arriving and really is focal point on how we should view the Lord’s presence in our lives. When we feel empty and useless, it’s then that God always reminds us that He is enough to fill the empty space in our lives. I really enjoyed the rock intro to the song as well, starting with a driving guitar riff that sneaks right into the first verse.

I think “Look Like A Fool” has to be my favorite track from the record. The song is a ‘feel good’ song with some cool rock guitars carrying the message home. I feel like this (I think you can relate too) a lot, where in my faith I have often been ridiculed and looked as if I was a fool for what I believe. The chorus is really a calling to Christians everywhere saying, “Who cares if people think your belief in God and relationship with Christ is crazy!” They are the fools. When listening to the song, I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if Rush of Fools (another cool new artist) did a cover of this song. Maybe. It could happen. I think the message of the song let’s us know that we shouldn’t be concerned with what people think of us and our worship of and personal walks with God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 is referenced here.

“As It Is In Heaven” is another direct scripture-based song. Very entertaining song that starts out with a pretty cool piano intro (Which sounded coincidentally close to a DC*B song!). I really enjoyed the chorus of the song as well. Not only was it based on the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2-4), but it really carried itself well with the catchy vocals and driving rock guitars.

Something that I noticed throughout the record is Matt Maher’s striking vocal resemblance to the indie-group Chronos and its lead vocalist, Doug Ray. Not sure whether Chronos is still together or not, but Maher’s vocals on a lot of the songs remind me of Ray’s and his work on their album, Downpour. I liked that one a lot. This is evident in songs like “Empty & Beautiful” and “For Your Glory” as well.

One of the most upbeat and blatant rock songs on the albums would come a few songs later in “Shine Like The Son”. Maher points out the message is pretty simple. He explains, “God made us ready to shine like the sun. Well, there was some confusion, and a long story short, I eventually decided to change sun to Son.” He continues saying “I think we are called to be salt and light. We are called to go into the middle of where people are, just as God comes into the middle of wherever we are. I immediately thought of Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

I think I would have to say that one of my favorite cuts on the album (in addition to “Look Like A Fool”) would probably have to be “Lay It Down”. This song is very simple in its message, but really got me checking my own life. In all my trials and troubles even I find it hard sometimes to lay those problems at the feet of Jesus. To lay it down, and let the Lord help me through it. Simple, but boldly stated.

I could go on and on telling you how much I enjoyed Maher’s debut, but I also thought that it was refreshing to not only hear a new voice, but something unique in an artist that devotes his entire life to the music ministry. If you are looking for that message-driven and encouraging album to pick up, then this would be a good place to start.

The only flaw I really saw in the album at times was the overall production. Some songs were equally blended, but some seemed to be overbearing at times, especially with the vocals. I don’t know if it was intentional or if that was just how Matt’s vocals blended naturally into his music. This was just something I noticed when listening through to the album.

All in all, I enjoyed ‘Empty & Beautiful’. I grow excited with anticipation with every new artist that debuts in 2008 and Maher was no exception. I enjoyed it and was lifted up by his message, his honesty and his conviction to put forth an album that would personally challenge me to re-analyze my life and ask myself the simple question. Am I truly allowing the Lord to work in my life? Or am I yielding to the world? Good question. How would you answer that?

Rating: 8.8 out of 10 (88%, B+)

Review written by: Jay Heilman

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