Thursday, August 4, 2011

I Will Praise You - Rebecca St. James

A mature Rebecca St. James returns with a solid collection of mostly original worship songs.

I Will Praise You
Artist: Rebecca St. James
Label: Beach Street Records/Reunion Records/Essential Records
Length: 10 tracks/42:46 minutes

I Will Praise You is a mature Rebecca St. James, which is reflected in the dignified photos on the CD artwork. It carries over into the words and music of each song.

Newly married after a long and public wait to meet the one to become her spouse, St. James returns with a worship recording, after focusing for several years on writing and acting. She has authored eleven titles and acted in nine films. There has not been a studio release of new material since If I Had One Chance to Tell You Something (2005). St. James is no stranger to this format. Worship God (2002) is one of her highest charting recordings.

St. James co-wrote many of the songs. There is only one well-known cover, Matt Redman’s “You Never Let Go,” and to use baseball terminology since it’s the middle of summer, she knocks it out of the park.

It’s been said that it is the life that prays. In other words, a life that is pleasing to God, not only makes prayer credible, but is like a prayer. St. James exhibits a life dedicated to God, which is an expression of worship and makes a recording like this a natural and reasonable choice. It would not disappoint me to see her continue to aspire to fresh, creative expressions of devotion.

On this release she surrounds herself with a stellar band of studio musicians that include Stu G of Delirious? and when she uses strings, John Catchings. They execute a near perfect blend of artistry and accessibility. Even the programming sounds good, which gives it that Euro flair that I associate with St. James.

In a recent interview with ChristianityToday, Matt Redman said that his aim as a songwriter is “simple but not shallow.” This recording is successful in that regard. The simplicity makes it easy to underrate, but it’s what makes it possible to sing these songs in a congregational setting. On the other hand, there is enough depth to provide substance, both lyrically and musically.

“The Kindness of Our God” sounds like a Celtic Keith and Kristy Getty hymn. A personal favorite is the closing ballad, “You Make Everything Beautiful” that adapts the first few lines of the serenity prayer.

I wonder sometimes if artists try too hard to be inventive and relevant. If so, they might benefit by following the example here, which by being well-crafted and winsome makes for pleasant and rewarding listening.

I tend to have low expectations of worship recordings because, at least in the past, they tended to be so monotonous. This was a delightful surprise. Rebecca St. James has ever reason to be satisfied.
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