God again brings good out of tragedy, and listeners glimpse it here.
Artist: Steven Curtis Chapman (www.stevencurtischapman.com)
Label: Sparrow Records/Chordant Music Group
Length: 14 tracks/55:14 minutes
If Beauty Will Rise (2009) was the dark night of the soul, re:creation (2011) is like the dawn that grows brighter till the full light of day. This is the sound of hope rising: the winter is past; the time for the singing of birds has come.
The tragic loss more than three years ago of the Chapman’s adopted daughter, Maria, put me in touch again with Steven Curtis Chapman and his music. After Heaven in the Real World (1994), I drifted away, but the Chapman’s season of grief caught my attention.
What the enemy may have wanted to use for evil purposes, God has used for good as re:creation is a reinvention of Chapman’s music. It has a welcome roots feel, a solid acoustic base with crisp production that enhances sometimes lighter but creative percussion.
This is not to say that Chapman sounds radically different. The changes are incremental, so that he is not departing from the style that makes “Do Everything” his 46th number one single. The cartoonish Official Music Video adds to the quirky vibe, but this is vintage Chapman, whose skill as one of Christian music’s most accomplished writers is plainly evident.
We are tempted to wonder if what we do matters at all. Chapman answers that it all matters, as long as we do everything to God’s glory. It gives us God’s perspective on significance.
“Long Way Home” is the first song Chapman wrote with a ukulele. This instrument, which is becoming more popular, adds to the comfort of the song.
Along with the ukulele, a parade of acoustic sounds, including hammer dulcimer, banjo, harp, piano, cello, strings and vibes, make subtle but delightful appearances. It makes me wish that he would go further along these lines.
Chapman does an excellent job of reimagining eight of his greatest songs in an acoustic vein, but as impressive as they are, the five new songs plus the cover of the hymn “Morning Has Broken” may be the best of all. It is partly because they are new, but also because Chapman sounds even more energized on this fresh material. Some, like the aforementioned “Do Everything,” pack more of a punch, which will appeal more to those who are less inclined toward the acoustic.
Along these lines is “All That’s Left,” which by virtue of its catchy sound and its affirmation of the preeminence of love, could become another number one song. “Meant to Be” reminds me of God’s sovereignty but also the movie classic It’s a Wonderful Life. What would the world be like if we were not here doing the things that God designed for us to do? God put us here to be a unique expression of Him. We can enrich others through our contribution.
The last two songs, which are joined together, are a fitting conclusion. Chapman and son Caleb sing alternate stanzas of the classic “Morning Has Broken.” It’s a new day in the Chapman household. Their night of weeping is receding; the new morning brings joy. The hymn segues into “Sing Hallelujah,” a short benediction that ends the recording on a note of triumph.
What a privilege to reconnect with an invigorated Chapman. God again brings good out of tragedy, and listeners glimpse it here.