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One of the Best Debut Projects in Years!
Posted February 12, 2012
By SarahFine_NRT, Staff Reviewer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

For some, music is something they discover with time--something they can use as a way of expressing who they are, who they’ve been and what they believe. For others, such as brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone, music is something that is embedded into their DNA.

If their faces look familiar to the Christian music fan, it’s mostly likely because they’ve seen them before. Having grown up in a musical home with father, acclaimed producer David Smallbone, their sister is none other than award winning female vocalist Rebecca St. James. Both men traveled with their sister for a number of years as they sang back-up vocals for her on tour. Right around the time Rebecca announced a break from music, Joel and Luke, both now seasoned veterans, began to treading into their own musical waters, touring under the name, well, Joel and Luke.

They sang as an independent duo for a number of years before inking a deal with Word Records in 2011. Wanting to avoid confusion that had been circulating around their name, the guys decided to switch things up a bit by re-branding themselves For King & Country.

“The history of that phrase is that back in the olden days, the British would go into battle shouting, chanting, ‘For King and Country,’ sort of as an anthem of fighting for something that they believed wholeheartedly in,” says Luke. “We all looked at each other in the studio and we just knew that was it.”

Already gaining widespread attention as an opening act on the 2012’s Winter Jam tour, the brothers’ first single, “Busted Heart (Hold On To Me),” has topped the charts on several Christian radio stations, and evoked what has become a dedicated fan base awaiting a full-length release. That need soon would be met by the release of their debut project, Crave.

“We want to be known for writing music that is authentic, real and from the heart,” says  Joel of the album. “There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went into this record and what spurred us on is this whole idea that we can make a difference.”

The album begins with the melodic and U2-like “Light It Up” and transitions nicely into the string fronted “The Proof Of Your Love,” pulling directly from 1 Corinthians 13 which states that without love, the things we do mean nothing.

The chaotic rock tune “Missing” speaks of the of the sting of lost love and will no doubt go down as a fan favorite with it‘s eerie and memorable composition. “Busted Heart (Hold On To Me) is the duo’s first hit single and is the standout track on this record. It comes from a place of utter brokenness and finding yourself at rock bottom, asking God, the only one who can pick us up, to come down and make us whole again. A fantastic song with seamless vocal harmonies from Joel and Luke.

People Change” follows along the line of “Missing,” only this time, this story of lost love has a happier ending with the moral that even the hardest and most stubborn heart can change for the better. “Middle Of Your Heart” is a catchy tune of surrendering your life unto God and yet again highlights the musical creativity found in this group’s music. I’d love to hear this as the next radio single.

Love’s To Blame” is a about selfless love, and how sometimes, loving someone means letting them go even if we don’t want to. “Fine Fine Life” is a ridiculously catchy tune about the personal and public tragedies found in society, and how quickly we can forget how beautiful life is when we don’t put Jesus first. There is no doubt you’ll walk away with the song stuck in your head.

Both Joel and Luke--much like their sister Rebecca--are outspoken activists on the topic of sexual purity, sharing that message in the song “Sane,” about someone who has crossed the lines and compromised themselves, coming to the conclusion that they can be made whole again and set free when they run to God and embrace His forgiveness. It sends a wonderful and much-needed message in our culture.

Pushing On A Pulling Door” is written from God’s perspective speaking to His children, telling them to stop trying to control their own lives and let Him take over. The album finally comes to a conclusion with the moving ballad and album namesake, “Crave.” Referring to hope as a woman figure, it talks about how we are always trying to find her and how only she is what will help us to live and love again after past mistakes. It’s unorthodox to say the least, but sends a powerful message nonetheless: “It’s written on my soul, hope is what we crave.”

Closing Thoughts:
Alternative pop isn’t an easy genre to tackle. It easily can be seen as being too upbeat or too edgy. In the case of For King & Country however, that couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Granted, it’s heavier than your average pop record, but somewhere in the midst of the meaty musical depth, there is an eminent beam of hope shining from the lyrics--whether they are about the sting of a broken relationship or the redemption found in God’s grace.

Crave is hands-down one of the best debut projects I’ve heard from a group in years. Creative, poignant and moving, it comes from a very raw place of heartache and hope, never backing down from the honest truth, yet never shying away from the restoration found in Christ. Musically, it’s unlike anything in the genre right now. Haunting, playful and deep all at once, it could quite easily beat out many of its mainstream counterparts. Joel and Luke have completely won me over, and when you hear this album for yourself, you‘ll understand why. This is an extremely bright start for one best new acts in CCM and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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