Monday, May 13, 2013

Anthems - Todd Ballard




Electric guitar may be anathema in some circles; it serves a higher purpose here.

Anthems
Artist: Todd Ballard (www.toddballard.com)
Label: Independent/Distribution by New Day Christian Distributors
Length: 13 tracks/54:30 minutes

I hope “guitar-hero” doesn’t have negative connotations. That’s what comes to mind when I listen to Anthems by Todd Ballard.

These are not anthems sung by a congregation. They may be adaptable for that purpose, but it does not matter. I relish stumbling across worship that sounds fresh. It comes from an individual that has an obvious passion for guitar rock. It’s even clear from the packaging. It twice depicts him with his axe, once hanging low by his side as he gazes pensively toward the distance. He’s like a gunslinger, firearm at the ready. The inside booklet shows it in action across his torso, his upper body and face not even visible. Electric guitar may be anathema in some circles; it serves a higher purpose here.

If you like rock but find much of modern worship less than satisfying, give this a try. It shows that subtle differences can add new vitality. This is unashamedly guitar-driven -- clean, tight and rugged -- with a little matching grit in the vocals. I could hear a little of John Schlitt (Petra) in the delivery. The lyrics lean toward singer/songwriter, and there is none of the tiresome repetition of phrases.

In contrast to the more aggressive sound, some piano-driven songs, which include strings, are gorgeous. Ballard, with the help of producer Otto Price, does all things well on this recording.

This includes a remake of “Find Me in the River,” the Delirious song. It segues seamlessly into “The One,” making the former like a beautiful prologue ushering one from the barren to the heights.

I would not have guessed that I would be so taken with a recording that had electric guitar in the forefront. Vertically-focused albums often fail to move me, so it took me by surprise when I found myself caught up in worship by the last track, “Psalm 18.” I was led along by a flow of songs that culminated in this magnificent offering of praise. It concludes with a majestic, Dave Bainbridge-like solo. Like Bainbridge, Ballard uses his instrument to glorify God. He shows a mastery that includes the restraint to know what not to play. Such control makes it seem as though his guitar is singing praises.

Anthems is evidence that guitar-driven rock can not only be a vehicle for passionate praise but majestic worship.   
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