Release Date: May 27th 2016
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
Track Listing (+ lead vocalist):
- Heavenly Father (Taranda Greene)
- I Give It to You (Doug Anderson)
- Jesus Never Fails
- On Mountains Alone (Taranda Greene)
- All My Reasons Are You (Jody McBrayer)
- Love Anyway (Doug Anderson)
- His Heart is Big Enough
- There is a Mountain
- The Same Hands (Taranda Greene)
- Let the Blood Speak for Me (Doug Anderson)
- Hello Fear
- I Won’t Go Back
- Holy Spirit Come Fill This Place (Jody McBrayer)
Formerly one of the lead vocalists for CCM powerhouse group Avalon, Jody McBrayer is probably one of my favourite CCM vocalists ever, alongside Mark Hall of Casting Crowns and Bart Millard of MercyMe. So after Jody came back from an extensive musical hiatus to unveil his new solo album Keep Breathing, I was very excited to hear what he had to say. But what I did not expect was also a new band formed. Cana’s Voice, comprised of Jody and his friends Taranda Greene and Doug Anderson, has recently dropped their debut album This Changes Everything recently, and let me tell you- if you’re a fan of both Avalon and Jody’s solo material, then Cana’s Voice’s debut album of 13 uplifting and encouraging ballads and worship songs are definitely for you! With the band employing plenty of keys, organs, gospel choirs and a southern gospel undertone and atmosphere all throughout the new project This Changes Everything; let’s dive in to see how these three friends praise God in unision!
Acoustic guitar bursts on the scene with the album opener “Heavenly Father”, led by Taranda, as the trio passionately reiterate that they need Jesus at all times of the day, and every day of their lives, Crying out ‘…Heavenly Father, You’re the one were waiting on, because without You there’s no way that I can stay strong, I can’t go on any longer on my own so hear me when I say, Heavenly Father, we need Your help today…’, this plea and prayer of honesty and reverence is perfect for the first song, as the introspection allows us to examine our faith with our Saviour and Maker. Well done guys for this toe tapping, easy to dance, worship anthem, sure to provide healing and perspective to all who listen.
As we hear the rest of the 12 melodies, we are presented with the band exploring quite a smorgasbord and variety of genres, as each vocalist has their turn at leading a song and each brings their unique musical gifts to this new and exciting venture. Country and bluegrass seem to be the way to go with “I Give It To You” as Doug carries the song with his strong baritone vocals, outlining that we can and should give everything in our lives over to God ‘…cause You’re strong enough to carry it all, there is nothing You can’t do, everything I bring You can take and redeem, if I give it to You, give it to You…’; while lead single and keys driven ballad “Jesus Never Fails” is a story-in-song type melody, where we are presented with instances in the Bible where Jesus was trustworthy and faithful in the verses, and an all-out unashamed declaration in the chorus that Jesus never fails at anything He does, with all three members shining vocally. A highlight in the album personally, “Jesus Never Fails” is a testament to God’s providence in our lives, and is a great melody to keep in mind, if ever we need inspiration in this life.
Yet another comforting melody is “On Mountains Alone”, where we are presented with the notion that the valleys in our lives help us grow as a person and in our character. Rather than experience life in the mountain the entire time, Cana’s Voice encourage us to learn to live through the valleys as God may be trying to gain our attention somehow. Somewhat uncomfortable to some, I reckon this melody is quite necessary as we remember that life sometimes doesn’t go to plan and it is in these moments that God really comes through for us and shows us time and time again that He always keeps his promises. And even though we have heard quite a lot of Jody’s exquisite and powerful vocals in the album Keep Breathing, it’s still quite special to hear him lead a 90’s throwback guitar led and musically Avalon-like melody in “All My Reasons Are You”, chronicling that every reason why we’re alive all boils down to and stems from Jesus Christ- a simple assertion that we all need to fully grasp and understand in our faith.
Doug’s heartfelt account of the woman touching Jesus’ cloak in “Love Anyway” is also thoroughly enjoyable to listen to, as we hear how the woman found Jesus’ love anyway, though she didn’t deserve it- a concept that we can grab onto and own, as we are showered Jesus’ love as well despite our deservedness. While Cana’s Voice also brilliantly cover Michael English’s smash hit “His Heart is Big Enough”, with all three vocalists sharing the lead in this piano ballad, where we are gently reminded that ‘…His heart is, big enough to love you, even though you turned Him away, His arms are, long enough to save you and give you another chance, to make up for your mistakes…’. No matter what you’ve done, nothing is too far gone for the love of our Father and Saviour to lavish over each one of us- just like how the prodigal son ran to his father and was accepted, so too does God’s love extend to us, a fact Cana’s Voice brilliantly convey here. The Gaither Vocal Band is also represented here, as Cana’s Voice cover “There Is a Mountain”, with each of Taranda, Jody and Doug excelling vocally here, and singing beautifully in harmony, while they each convey that Jesus will carry us over the mountain and through the storms of life.
As the ballads and God moments continue to wow me, we are presented with one of my favourite songs on the album, the piano led ballad “The Same Hands”, which is brilliantly led by Taranda, as she majestically conveys with a chilling gospel choir that ‘…the hands that carved the oceans, and moved the mountains high, the hands that healed the crippled man and gave the blind man sight, the hands that held the Saviour nailed to a rugged tree, these are the same hands holding you and me…’. A truth that cannot be sung too little, and should be remembered many, many times over, Taranda eloquently reminds us that nothing is too small or too big for our God, that the God who made the heavens and the earth is the same God interested in each one of our lives, no matter how insignificant we think we are. While the simple theme of letting Jesus’ death and resurrection speak for us when we give our testimony to those who do not know Jesus (aka letting our actions speak louder than our words), is present in the acoustic guitar led Doug Anderson led “Let the Blood Speak For Me”; while Kirk Franklin’s “Hello Fear” is covered here also, as all three vocalists sing to fear (aka the devil), renouncing it from our lives, and proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and Saviour, and that fear has no hold over us anymore. A brilliant and worthy cover that is in my opinion somewhat more enjoyable that Kirk’s original melody from 2011; these three friends have created something special bound to last for as long as God allows the band to keep going for.
And as if a cover from Kirk Franklin isn’t enough, Jody, Doug and Taranda tackle William McDowell’s vibrant and eclectic poetic and free flowing worshipful “I Won’t Go Back”, an honest and moving account of us not going back to our old lives after Jesus saved us and changed us reminding us that ‘…I’ve been changed, healed, freed, delivered, I’ve found joy, peace, grace and favour…’, while another cover ends the album, as CeCe Winans’ “Holy Spirit Come Fill This Place” is given a rendition with grace, poise, and immense gratitude to Jesus. As we hear the trio exclaiming that they want the Holy Spirit to fill this place and allow each of us to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, I am amazed at the love of Jesus each vocalist has, as well as the professionalism of each member, considering that the band is new. Well done guys, This Changes Everything is indeed a fantastic album to listen to, and one that we can listen to on our iTunes for a while yet!
Over the course of the album, Cana’s Voice work together well in perfect harmony, as each member bares their soul and shows us all the journey they have gone through over the past few years. And while some of these thirteen melodies are worship covers, it is the sheer honesty and brutal emotion evident that makes this record one of the most worshipful and enjoyable of 2016 so far. If you have not listened to Jody McBrayer’s Keep Breathing nor Cana’s Voice This Changes Everything, then you’re definitely missing out on some powerful testimonies and eternal truths. So what are you waiting for? As you all eagerly anticipate Avalon recording new music, let us let Cana’s Voice minister to our souls, as we praise God, allowing Him to change every as aspect of our lives that He deems fit!
4 songs to listen to: I Give It To You, All My Reasons Are You, The Same Hands, Hello Fear
RIYL: Avalon, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, Jason Crabb, Mary Mary, Nicole C. Mullen