Friday, March 25, 2016

Keep Breathing - Jody McBrayer


Strong comeback from a former Avalon member

Keep Breathing
Artist: Jody McBrayer (www.jodymcbrayer.com)
Label: StowTown Records
Length: 11 tracks/44 minutes

Keep Breathing by Jody McBrayer feels like a homecoming. In one sense it becomes that when he joins his former Avalon partner, Melissa Greene, on “God is in Control” (not the Twila Paris song). It’s a pleasure to hear these two blending and complementing their voices on a song that speaks to the times in which we live.

The opening “Good to be Home” is the sound of a prodigal returning. The lyrics and R&B/gospel styling are so warm. It’s a testimony of coming in from the cold. It’s emerging from a time of difficulty with a new song. Like much of this release, it worships Christ and celebrates being in the family of God.

Along with the title track and “He Gave Me More Love” these three songs especially appeal because of the soulful music. They are my favorites. They exude welcome. It’s like being greeted with a loving embrace.   

The programming and the guitar riff on “When We Look Back” are a look back toward one of Avalon’s most famous songs, “Testify to Love.” It’s a slower song but I hear echoes of the former’s majesty.

The pennywhistle on “With Each Borrowed Breath” gives it a Celtic feel. It’s a pensive reflection on one’s days. It’s one of several worshipful songs. They feel so appropriate on this release.  

Though well-written and performed, the style of the orchestrated “What it takes to be a Savior” is probably the least compelling. It follows the inspirational format one might associate with singers that start quietly and build toward a crescendo where they hit and hold the high notes. It’s not a bad song; you won’t find one on this release. It just doesn’t feel as fresh.

On the other hand, on this and the other tracks you hear a voice that is as strong as ever, regardless of the setting. McBrayer masters the material.

The inspirational style works best on the closing, “This is a Son,” which addresses the marginalized and outcasts of our society. It makes a startling identification at the end.

McBrayer was part of Avalon for nearly 12 years, until he left in 2007 due to a rare but manageable form of heart disease. His previous releases consist of This is Who I Am (2002) and an EP on iTunes, Christmastime (2015).

This is a strong comeback, one that will appeal to Avalon fans and anyone that appreciates faith-inspired music. Grace, the work of Christ and praise are three repeated themes. The gospel-oriented material alone makes this worthwhile. The weaker moments are when McBrayer drifts toward the orchestrated, but it doesn’t overshadow this effort.
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