Millions of records sold and numerous awards can’t compare with Chapman’s advocacy for orphans and this wistful, elegant recording.
The Glorious Unfolding
Artist: Steven Curtis Chapman (www.stevencurtischapman.com)
Label: Reunion Records
Length: 12 tracks/48 minutes
To hear Steven Curtis Chapman tell it, “We will never move on from our family’s story. We carry with us our sadness and loss of Maria.” Chapman refers to the accidental death on May 21, 2008, of their five-year-old adopted daughter from China. Though they still struggle, a thought shared by one of Chapman’s favorite authors, Oswald Chambers, comes to mind: “Out of the wreck I rise.” As Chambers writes, “God does not keep His child immune from trouble; He promises, ‘I will be with him in trouble . . .’ (Psalm 91:15). . . . Some extraordinary thing happens to someone who holds on to the love of God when the odds are totally against him. Logic is silenced in the face of each of these things which come against him.” Chapman has hung on to the grace of God, making “out of the wreck I rise” a reality in his own life.
This is his first studio album of all-original material in seven years. What stands-out is a hopeful outlook. This is buoyant right from the opening title track, which serves to highlight the theme of eagerly waiting the fulfillment of God’s promises. It’s believing “that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28 ESV) despite apparent contradiction.
Musically, this follows the direction taken in the last few outings. The electric takes a back seat to acoustic instrumentation. Chapman retains his signature sound but continues to somewhat embody new folk made popular by artists like Mumford & Sons. It fits this Paducah, Kentucky native well and even includes Andy Leftwich from Ricky Skaggs’ band, playing fiddle on some tracks. This artfully blends the programmed with the organic in melodies that alternate between driving and tender.
One pleasant surprise is the closing, “Feet of Jesus,” with its hymn-like stanzas, ethereal background and Celtic vibe. It’s a fitting benediction, an encouragement to lay our heavy burdens down.
“Take Another Step” is a direct influence from Oswald Chambers, who counseled when facing uncertainty, “trust God and do the next thing.”
Chapman gets boisterous on “Love Take Me Over.” Rugged claps and stomps are the background for his plea, “God, please take all of me/And fill me up with Your Love … Love, fill up all of my space and/Love, stand right here in my place.” This exudes the joy in surrender.
This sometimes wistful look at the present and future is elegant. Chapman has sold millions of records and has more awards than anyone in Christian music, but none of it surpasses his recent output, which includes this fine recording.