It is no hyperbole to say that Jesus Culture and Kim Walker-Smith have become a powerful new voice in the sound of worship to the new generation and the "modern" church's musical liturgy. So, when I heard that Kim was going to be releasing a solo album, I was interested. Even though I often have the opportunity to get "free" product to evaluate popular worship resources/CDs, I almost always end up buying my own copies of things, because like many of you, I want to know if I feel like the money I spent was worth it. I am delighted to say that Kim's new album, "Still Believe", comes in very strong. It's not only worth the money, its worth your attention.
Having heard the previous Jesus Culture albums, I knew that her passionate vocals were her signature. My assumption was that it would be those impassioned vocals that would take over a solo album as well. I was right. And wrong. Yes, her vocals, with all their presence and passion rip through these songs with both peace and power- fitting them with the proper aspect as the song demanded. But also, no, in that Kim moves from just being a great voice to being a promising songwriter. On "Still Believe", Kim steps in with a surprising ability to write and present songs that are fresh, inviting and actually thoughtful.
The album kicks off with "Alive", a note pounding declaration that resounds with
"We will make Him known, Jesus is alive. He's alive!
We will shout it out, Jesus is alive! He's alive!"
The first track, written by Gabe Kossol and Jeremy Edwardson, comes across very strong, intentional and engaging. This is a great launch pad for the album. Praising God and declaring the resurrection truth is focused and yet celebratory. I love it!
The next song is written by Chris McClarney (author of "Your Love Never Fails") and others. "Waste It All" has quickly become one of my favorite "surrender" songs. Lyrically, it is a musical interpretation of Matthew 26:6-13 (woman pouring perfume on Jesus) in the first person. Every time the chorus rings out I find myself surrendering once again.
Track three continues the very hopeful, God-ward and personal language of all the songs in this album. "The King is Here" is new song written by Kim and Christa Black, this one exclaiming that God is here among us, He is present and we can rely on His being present and rejoice in that same reality. As much a song of faith as praise, this song takes our attention clearly from the far off God who watches us to the very present King who is in our midst. Again, focused, clear and powerfully delivered. Love it!
"Yield My Heart" settles back into a gentle brushes/cadence and Kim Walker-Smith opens up in first person language confessing, "I yield my heart to You." Again, coupling surrender and declaration, this song feels like a simple prayer, straight out of the ethos and language of the Davidic Psalms. And this is what endears you to this album- her intense focus on Christ, clearly at the expense of exposing her own vulnerability as she unrelentingly sings out these songs.
Tracks 5 and 6 are a live version of the Tim Hughes (et al) song "Spirit Break Out" and a spontaneous tag that extends out through an entire track. To be sure, almost every song on this album has a tag and impromptu segment that takes each song to a personal and "uncorked" expression from this worship leader to God, with all of us carried along in the tow of real worship. This song is a very well written re-examination of the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6) that links that prayer to the release of the Holy Spirit across mankind and history. A beautiful prayer and offering. Walker-Smith doesn't leave the song to the text given by the songwriters. She expands on it with her own passion, ad libs and unguarded confessions of need to be overflowing with the presence of Christ, His love and His character.
The title track "Still Believe" carves a beautiful melodic understanding of the atonement found in Christ's blood and the sufficiency it establishes for all those who believe. Maybe one of the most focused songs on the blood of Christ that I have come across. Without compromise, Kim declares that the blood of Christ is the center of what grace and provision is available for all Christians. Again, I am very impressed with the focus and articulation that this young writer has by keeping the text to one topic on any given song. A song well worth listening to for anyone looking for great new songs in your local church.
The next track is a cover of Martin Smith & Stu Garrard's "Miracle Maker", done with both lilt and power. Not a song that is easily done in most churches, but a gorgeously presented declaration of the Revelation text that appears in chapter 1 and 4 "who was and is and is to come". The final song (called "Healing Oil" by Chris Lizotte) is a jubilation of thankfulness that launches Kim Walker-Smith into an overture of refrains. She is singing out, at the top of her lungs, declaring that she wouldn't trade another lifetime for the reality of God's presence being there, right now.
And that highlights precisely why I LOVE this album. Kim Walker-Smith refuses to be afraid of singing songs that are either well articulated theology ("Still Believe" and "Alive") or "in the moment" passion ("Waste It All" and "Healing Oil"). It is that edge of unguarded evocation that makes the album feel like a breath of fresh wind on the landscape of "prescribed" worship music productions which are often addled by so much musical and theological care they leave true passion off the recording. This needn't be so. And Kim Walker-Smith proves it.
I loved this album. You will too. Really.
For churches using WorshipTeam.com, all of the songs, chord charts, lyrics and audio are already available and pre-loaded for you in the WorshipTeam.com system song database. If you are not part of WorshipTeam.com and want to listen to audio samples or purchase the album directly yourself, see the Amazon link below.
Amazon Link: http://amzn.to/15qt6KN
Review by Kim Gentes