Worship Artist to Watch
Posted September 25, 2012
After her graduation from Belmont University in 2007, Shelly Johnson quickly made a huge first impression. In 2008, at GMA’s “Music in the Rockies Conference” songwriting contest, she was awarded not once, but twice. Her song “Power of the Cross” was named Song of the Year, while “Draw Near” was celebrated as Scripture Song of the Year.
In 2009, she introduced herself to Christian music listeners with her independent album Mosaic of Grace. It was through this release that “Power of the Cross” caught the ear of Natalie Grant who recorded the tune on her Love Revolution album and helped propel it to popularity in churches across the nation.
Johnson had the opportunity to sign a publishing and recording deal with Lifeway Worship in Partnership with Marantha! Music in 2011. Without a doubt, the pianist, singer-songwriter, and worship leader shines on her major label debut EP, Power of the Cross.
Johnson’s newest single, “All Things Beautiful,” leads off the project. She begins by trying to understand the presence of pain and suffering, while proclaiming beauty in a hurting soul’s ability to praise God in the midst of life’s trouble. Finally, Johnson concludes that, though she’ll never understand God’s mysterious ways, His plan is beautiful and perfect, “and someday He’ll make all things beautiful.” This thoughtful piano piece is a terrific testament to our Heavenly hope promised in Christ.
Johnson completes her one-two punch by reprising her well-known “Power of the Cross.” The song was inspired by her volunteer work with Nashville Rescue Mission where, over a four-year period, she spent two Wednesdays per month leading worship at the Mission’s Hope Center which ministers to homeless women and children. It was here that she witnessed women who were battling adversity, addiction, and abuse literally lay their “chains” at the foot of the cross. Undoubtedly, this emotionally charged experience aided Johnson in her cogent communication of the transformative, redemptive power of the cross. Supported to great effect by an eight-piece string ensemble, Johnson shows off vocals that are both emotive and powerful.
“Power of the Cross” is a huge song, and it casts a giant shadow. Consequently, although melodic and strong on its own, “Refuge” suffers for following in the wake of the hefty anthem which precedes it.
By contrast, “Hallelujah Forever” rounds out the project by forcefully impressing itself on the listener’s ear and heart. Musically vibrant and energetic, the song pairs bright xylophone with electric guitar in a full band backing. Lyrically, the track is a fitting conclusion to the EP, as Johnson sings out on the chorus: “Hallelujah, Forever / Hallelujah / It is done / Our Savior’s come / Hallelujah.”
Shelley Johnson’s songwriting talents make her an emerging worship artist to watch! Power of the Cross conveys its gospel-driven message loud and clear while serving as a strong introduction to listeners who haven’t yet discovered the promising young talent.
EPs are a difficult thing, though. Songs don’t always have a place to land on a short project. Where a song like “Refuge” might fare better sequenced among different material on a longer offering, here – sandwiched between two walloping wammies – it is a slight stumble. Still, this recording is a solid foundation for Johnson to build upon. It’s a welcome treat that will whet your appetite and leave you hungry for more. Fear not, for it is abundantly clear that Johnson has only just begun. She’s certain to return with many more great songs, and you’ll not want to miss it when she does!
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