Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Place Called Grace - Carmen D'Arcy

Praise and worship with a wonderful pop sensibility

A Place Called Grace
Artist: Carmen D’Arcy
Label: Brick Street Records
Length: 11 tracks/45:41 minutes

Recordings like A Place Called Grace by Carmen D’Arcy give me reason to be optimistic about the future of praise and worship music. On releases like this, artists continue to move beyond simplistic lyrics while developing artistic integrity. Given the nature of the genre, it can be a challenge to be original. It’s almost inevitable that some songs will sound like what’s been done before, but this CD shows that worship leaders like D’Arcy are developing their own sound.

What I find appealing about this is a wonderful pop sensibility. This recording is a fine blend of praise and worship and inspirational pop somewhat reminiscent of Twila Paris, but with a more modern feel. A few songs might be right at home at a Hillsong event. Others might remind you of Natalie Grant. Though many of the songs are adaptable to the corporate worship setting, a few work best as vertical songs of inspiration.

Credit must go to Bryan Lenox (who has produced Michael W. Smith and many other top Christian artists) for making this sound so good. It sounds fresh even though some tracks are characteristic of the genre. There’s a hint of British influenced pop rock that includes some terrific hooks. While being contemporary it avoids being edgy, which would take away from the broad appeal. It’s so well-crafted and clean-sounding that those who favor more traditional types of worship may like it.

The title song is a standout with a wonderful blend of hopeful lyrics, and inspired music and production. It’s probably more adult contemporary pop than praise and worship, but it fits either format. D’Arcy gets great backing from male vocalists on this and other songs. Light strings grace this and a few other tracks. She also makes occasional use of a choir.

One of the surprises is an adaptation of the little known Joseph Addison hymn, "Spacious Firmament." It has a fresh arrangement with an added chorus. The poetic imagery is reminiscent of Psalm 19:

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heav’ns, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.

Th’ unwearied sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator’s pow’r display,
And publishes to ev’ry land
The work of an almighty hand.


There’s good songwriting and accessible melodies throughout. D’Arcy has a warm voice, and the music is tight with a good mix of tempos.

D’Arcy leads worship and directs the choir at the 6,000-member Grace Community Church near Indianapolis, Indiana. She is also a mother of four—their youngest adopted from Guatemala. She and her family are passionate advocates for adoption.

This is a strong first release that will be enjoyed by many.
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