The Good, The Bad, The Honest
Posted August 23, 2016
By CaitlinLassiter_NRT, Staff Reviewer
Few groups in Christian music have found success, encouraging listeners through countless hit albums and chart-topping songs for over a decade, quite like Dove/AMA/Grammy award-winning Casting Crowns. The Georgia-based band, fronted by youth pastor and lead singer Mark Hall, has 10 critically acclaimed albums already behind them, with such #1 songs as "Praise You In This Storm," "Voice Of Truth," "Glorious Day," "East To West" and "Just Be Held" in their discography.
For a band with that many accomplishments, it would be easy to slow down or stop trying new things. Fortunately for fans though, Casting Crowns has done neither of those. With their 11th studio album The Very Next Thing, Casting Crowns gives fans the worship songs that have become a signature for the band, but also introduces more of a southern/bluegrass influenced sound than we're used to hearing from them in the past.
I can imagine the band opening their live shows much like they open this album: with the sonically intriguing, slow crescendo intro of "Hallelujah," a drumbeat-driven song of praise to Christ for His sacrifice on the cross. The title track follows as a song of openness and surrender to whatever God has ahead for us, encouraging listeners to stay present and keep their eyes open for where He will lead us next.
The next two tracks are absolutely the standouts in this album. An upbeat message of the grace and mercy that He always offers, "One Step Away" is a reminder that we can never run so far that we can't freely come back to Him: "Love's never met a lost cause / your shame, lay it down / leave your ghosts in the past cause you know that you can't go back but you can turn around / you've never been more than one step away from surrender / one step away from coming home."
A deeply personal cut inspired by Mark's recent battle with cancer, "Oh My Soul" is a refreshingly honest track that chronicles the fear and doubts he wrestled with after his diagnosis. As the first verse lays out these vulnerable feelings, the rest of the song acts as a beautifully-written reminder of the promises of God to redeem all that is broken and to never leave us in our worst moments: "There will be beauty where beauty was ash and stone / this much I know / Oh my soul, you are not alone / there's a place where fear has to face the God you know."
Another honest piece, "Still Standing Here" takes us into the struggle of someone who intended to do great things yet found themselves held back from the life they were meant to live, sitting in the shallow end instead of crossing into deeper waters. "God Of All My Days," one of the strongest worship moments featured on this album, is a bold declaration of the constant character of God in every season of our lives: "In my worry, God You are my stillness / in my searching, God You are my answers / in my blindness, God You are my vision / in my bondage, God You are my freedom," the bridge proclaims.
Shaking things up, "When The God Man Passes By" and "Song That The Angels Can't Sing" introduce listeners to more of a bluegrass/southern sound than we normally hear from the Crowns crew, with the added bonus of getting to hear Megan Garrett's powerhouse vocals at the helm of these tracks. Backed by the Trevecca Nazarene University National Praise and Worship choir, "Make Me A River" follows with a bit more of that southern style.
Violinist Melodee DeVevo and Mark trade off vocals on "For All You Are," producing another lyrically captivating time of worship: "I'll find my healing in Your scars / all of me for all You are." "No Other Name" and "Loving My Jesus" bring the album to a close with more carefully penned lyrics that bring listeners into an atmosphere of praise for all He is.
Casting Crowns undeniably has a few musical gems inside The Very Next Thing. Both the upbeat tracks and the softer worship moments succeed in lyrically gathering the good, bad and painfully honest parts of all life's circumstances, while still leaving listeners with firm Biblical truths to stand on despite those circumstances. With records like this that seem to keep flowing from the Crowns team, it's easy to see why so many find comfort and encouragement in their songs, and it's even easier to see that, much to the joy of fans, Casting Crowns is not slowing down anytime soon.
Song To Download Now:
"One Step Away" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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