|Still Going Strong! | Posted April 23, 2012
Point of Grace has been a Christian music mainstay for more than 20 years. In that time, they've seen many changes, personally and professionally. Only half of the original four-piece group remains--Shelley Breen and Denise Jones. Newest member Leigh Cappillino completes the group's current trio line-up.
It took some time for the transformed group to find their feet. Since the departure of Heather Payne in 2008, Point of Grace has released a repackaged version of their 2007 project followed by a Christmas album, a 2010 studio album, another Christmas record, and a Greatest Hits compilation.
When POG's membership was reduced to three, their 2010 release No Changin' Us was more than a personnel change; it was a marked shift in sound from Contemporary Christian to Country, helmed by Taylor Swift's producer, Nathan Chapman. Though the change was challenging for many long-time fans, one can't help but wonder if the move was a conscious effort to avoid direct comparisons between the new trio and the beloved original quartet. Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter: Point of Grace returns to form with their ninth studio album, A Thousand Little Things. Produced by Ian Eskelin, the project includes three songs that Shelley, Denise, and Leigh helped write. It's clear that the ladies have established their new identity while finding a sound that should please new and old fans alike.
The album bounds out of the gate with the Cindy Morgan penned "Good Enough." The sound is poppy but organic, with a hopeful, breezy attitude that feels like classic Point of Grace. Rhythmic and happy, it reminds us that we shouldn't feel pressured to measure up or perform. Rather, when life overwhelms us, we need "to trust in the way He loves, and that's good enough." The message of the gospel–Grace–preached in a pop song. Love it!
"Heaven Knows" takes a moodier turn. It sounds like a Martina McBride number with story-song lyrics that address questions we all ask, like why bad things happen to good people. The song is about surrender. As the lyrics suggest, we can't control things or have all the answers: "This crazy life has shown me that even when I don't, Heaven knows."
By the time track three and current single "A Thousand Little Things" rolls around, Point of Grace has hit their stride. They're clearly having a blast on this joyful piece they co-wrote, giving thanks for all the mundane daily ways in which God shows us His love. It's a bouncy little ditty, assisted by a ukulele. As you sing along thinking of your own list of little blessings, you'll find yourself smiling all the while.
This happy little tune is followed by "Only Jesus," a story song where each verse presents a different scenario of struggle and pain: broken promises, infidelity, shame, heartbreak, loss. The production is big on this one. It's a mega-chorus ballad with lyrics that ask, "What kind of water can wash this stain? / What kind of heart can heal this kind of pain? / What kind of love but Jesus? / Only Jesus". Before the song takes a grand finish, there's a sermonette that reminds us why God sent Jesus. This is old school Point of Grace, folks. The voices may be different, but they are as good as ever.
How do you follow up a big production number? Point of Grace does it with a quiet song that packs a punch, "What I Already Know." In a blog posting on the POG website, Leigh shares that she fought for this introspective tune which she calls her "melodic diary." And I'm so glad she did! Understated production and straightforward instrumentation allows the vocals and the message to shine. The result is a prayerful song that confesses "all I really need is just a little more faith to believe what I already know." The instrumental rendering of "Jesus Loves Me" at song's end will bring a tear to your eye.
The girls bring things straight back to bouncy with "Might Be Today," an anthem of hope encouraging us to hold on while waiting for brighter days: "Things can change in an instant / Gray clouds run out of rain / It's just a matter of time til it happens / Hey! / Might be today!" The swift tempo and beautiful three part harmonies make this more than just a toe-tapper. You'll feel like dancing!
The momentum continues with "Wash Me Away," a song of spiritual cleansing and rebirth. This track is like the bluegrass sister of MercyMe's "So Long Self." Impeccably performed and produced, it boasts a sing-along refrain: "I'm going down to wade in the water / Far too long, been a wayward daughter / Father, won't you change what needs to change / Wash me away / ‘Til only You remain." With it's strong melody and tight harmonies, this is a stand-out track that I found myself returning to over and over. It's one of the best songs the group has ever recorded!
Point of Grace rounds out much of the remainder of the record with inspirational songs. First comes "You Be the One," a song challenging listeners to be the one to help others, to forgive, to show mercy, and to "shine the eyes of Jesus." It's a Christ-centered "Be the change you want to see" set to music. Next up is "I Believe in You (Dedication Song)," an advice-packed song of imparted wisdom that would serve as a good graduation theme. This is the ladies' mother-to-child blessing. It will find broad appeal though, as its reach is wide enough for listeners of all ages to identify with and draw strength from.
Finally, POG wraps things up with "Saving Jesus," a song for doubters and those struggling to trust and lean on faith. The heart of the message is an entreaty to surrender: "How low do you have to go before your knees finally hit the floor? / What do you think you're saving Jesus for?" The record closes by leaving the listener in the ideal position–worship.
With A Thousand Little Things, Point of Grace and producer Ian Eskelin have crafted a wonderful album. It's honest and real, presenting both the ups and downs of life. And most importantly, it's balanced. Production wise, it's sometimes large and other times small. Musically and vocally, each song gets precisely what it needs. The result is a strong album, perfectly sequenced, with several top-notch tunes. And I couldn't be happier to announce that Shelley, Denise, and Leigh have found a balance in their sound -- one that steps forward and takes chances while remaining respectful of their past. If the changes in lineup and style have made you a reluctant listener, have no fear! There's no doubt about it, this is a Point of Grace record!
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