Saturday, October 3, 2009

Alive Again - Matt Maher

Multi-faceted worship from an emerging singer/songwriter

Alive Again
Artist: Matt Maher (
Label: Essential Records
Length: 12 tracks/55:34 minutes

Alive Again, Matt Maher’s second release on Essential Records, solidifies his emergence as a recognized worship artist. It also highlights his ability as a songwriter. He is best known as the author of “Your Grace is Enough,” which appeared on his Essential debut, Empty and Beautiful.

Maher is one who believes in songs born out of community. These songs were written with Jason Ingram, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, up-and-coming writer/vocalist Audrey Assad, Mark Byrd and Mia Fieldes (Hillsong). I appreciate the honesty and vulnerability in some of the lyrics.

Originally from Newfoundland, Canada, Maher has gone from full-time ministry at his home church in Mesa, Arizona to leading worship around the world.

That is not to say that Alive Again is just the typical fare found on modern worship recordings. There are songs like “Shout of the King,” a driving anthem that would be right at home on a Chris Tomlin recording. But you also find a more than average variety of styles. Maher sings with a Bruce Springsteen-like swagger on “Hold Us Together,” which with its sing-a-long chorus could pass for a folk anthem. The plainspoken sentiments about love make it a song that I can imagine the Boss singing.

“Remembrance” is a communion song with lyrical depth and an ethereal sound that highlights the mystical aspect of the rite. The stripped-down, all-acoustic sound on “Letting Go” fits perfectly with its theme of relinquishing all. The quiet, gentle nature make this one of my favorites.

“You were on the Cross” is a stark song of lament from the perspective of someone who is in the winter of discontent. Yet when life falls apart, it still has the faith to direct the hard questions to God: Where were you when …? Songs like this are a heartening sign of maturity. Others have pointed out that modern worship recordings have often lacked this aspect of grief and sorrow.

Anytime anyone successfully incorporates the beautiful picture of God singing over his children (Zep. 3:17), it is worth noting. That is what you find on “Sing Over Your Children.”

“No Greater Love” celebrates the Incarnation with drums that shuffle and atmospheric guitar. Kudos to the producers, Paul Moak and Christopher Stephens, for helping to give this CD a raw, organic sound that makes this a little different from the many similar-sounding praise and worship recordings. My first exposure to Moak was his hot guitar-playing on one of Derek Webb’s tours. I can hear his influence.

“Garden,” another acoustic gem—one of two songs that include female harmonizing and the album’s closer—rejoices in the fruit of God’s cultivation of the heart.

This CD is like a fresh garden of delights. It’s not hard for me to imagine the gentle breeze of the Spirit carrying these songs of praise and worship heavenward as they fill the hearts of God’s children.
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