Singer/songwriter/worship Leader Matt Maher's 12-track Empty & Beautiful, which released April 8, 2008, includes songs that are both corporate and reflective; driving and soft; each one telling the story from a different perspective. Maher describes the heart behind his Essential Records debut, "The realization of our own emptiness without God is both a moment of sadness, and a window to joy, which opens to something so much bigger and more beautiful than ourselves. To lay down one's life for the Gospel in service of God and neighbor, is a reflection of the beauty of God. That is our charge as Christians, and that is where these songs came from."
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FULL & LOVELY| Posted September 29, 2008
Somewhere between the prescient life observations of Chris Rice and the passionate, pop radio worship anthems of Chris Tomlin resides the exuberant, relentlessly upbeat ruminations of Matt Maher (pronounced ‘Mar’ like ‘Car’). Though Empty & Beautiful might be an introduction of sorts to fans of contemporary Christian music, it is, in fact, Maher’s fourth album. (His first three were released in the Catholic market by OCP Records.)
Maher and his team of songwriters, players and producers expend tremendous effort crafting pure pop tunes to embellish solid lyrics that explore the attributes of God and our response to Him. The result is a 12-song collection that actually sounds effortless, familiar and inviting, even though it plumbs the depths of theological truth.
The bright and bouncy opening track, which oddly enough sounds like an anthem for the Reformation, boldly declares, “Your Grace is Enough” (previously recorded by Chris Tomlin). “Look Like a Fool” uses a gently rocking rhythm to declare the nature of what the Apostle James calls, “true religion”: “Feeding the hungry/Clothing the naked/Giving the homeless a place to rest/Visiting the prisoner/Lifting up the lowly.”
Grace, love, truth—Maher’s songs challenge, encourage, teach, exhort and rejoice while making you feel good just by listening to them. Yeah, this is good stuff. –Mike Parker
This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from CCMMagazine.com. Click here to visit CCMMagazine.com today!
Matt Maher [Empty & Beautiful]| Posted September 24, 2008
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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This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from ChristianMusicReview.org. Click here to visit ChristianMusicReview.org today!
the year of st. paul!| Posted June 26, 2008
the title song of the album speaks of paul in prison and is so beautifully written i recommend it for dre's, youth ministry teams, parish priests and others to use it throughout the year of St. Paul that Pope Benedict has declared for our consideration.
I heard a Podcast review of the album from spiritandsong.com and it was wonderful to hear his description of the music, the intent behind it and the process of writing, re-releasing, etc!
I highly recommend this humble, non-celebrity.......
Matt is humble........
i would describe it is:
we do the footwork, the results are up to God!
SIMPLY THE BEST!| Posted February 12, 2009
This is one onf the greatest CD's to ever have graced my ears. We are talking borderline perfection... and what's more, he's Catholic! Wonderful man, Wonderful Talent, Wonderful Music, Wonderful God!
God Bless Matt Maher and God Bless the Catholic Church!
Loved every one| Posted September 27, 2008
I loved every song on this album, but my favorite one is "Your Grace Is Enough". It's catchy and upbeat, and it sends a message that is simple but profound. "I Rejoice" also has those qualities. I think it's pretty neat that Matt wrote all the songs on this one, because now we have a bunch of new hits to choose from.
wow| Posted June 26, 2008
i have heard matt on the lifeteen.com website alot he has an amazing voice and is a really good singinger i love this cd i think he is also going to world youth day for some thing
I loved it!| Posted May 05, 2008
I just recently bought this CD and I was not disappointed! It has definitely lifted my spirits and it a great cd! I really wish Matt Maher much success and pray that many people check this cd out!