Release Date: March 4th 2016
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- I Let My Heart Open
- Mountain Tops
- Jesus, You Are
- God is Good
- Right Here
- Hallelujah For the Saviour
- The Blood of Jesus
- There’s Nothing My God Cannot Do
- See You Again (feat. Meredith Andrews)
‘…with every record, I try to push it just a little further than I did before, stylistically, without compromising the message at all. But I also look for songs that people will sing—that they can drive down the road worshiping the Lord with, but also sing congregationally…’ Worship leader, music artist, teacher, author and pastor, Charles Billingsley has been around recording music since the 1990s, and apart from his solo music career, has been the most well-known for his stint in CCM/pop power group Newsong. While I have only heard his previous album Only Jesus prior to listening to his latest album Right Here, I can say right off the bat that those who would love Charles’s music would be listeners of similar artists like Newsong, Matt Redman, Phillips, Craig and Dean, and Jason Crabb and his southern gospel material. While Charles may not necessarily be as popular as other worship artists and acts alike Jesus Culture and Passion; Charles’s honesty throughout these 11 songs makes this worship album one of the standouts in 2016, along with Steven Curtis Chapman’s Worship and Believe, and Meredith Andrews’s Deeper. This is a great album to even be acquainted with Charles and his music, and after listening to Right Here, my interest to listen to Charles’s discography of the past has been piqued. With a myriad of musical genres on Right Here, from ballads and more reflective music, to acoustic/bluegrass, Charles continues to break new ground musically as Right Here continues to climb the list of album releases that have been some of the most unique and ingenious of 2016 thus far!
With the album released a week early via a NewReleaseToday.com album stream, Charles has delivered 11 songs full of enthusiasm and passion as an artist I have virtually heard nothing about has given me resolve and impetus to actually check out his discography after listening Right Here. Starting the album with “I Let My Heart Open”, Charles ventures into 1980s musical territory with keyboard synthesisers and light percussion and a voice that reminds me of Phil Collins, while the message is loud and clear- about the day that we gave our lives to Christ, remembering the day when we opened our hearts to love and gave God the religion we held onto for so long. A song that is as relatable to many who moved from religion into freedom, from rules and regulation into good work out of love, awe and respect; “I Let My Heart Open” is a great throwback musically to 30 years ago, as we are reminded that music that was popular then can still make a comeback all the while later. “God is Good” is a three minute southern gospel ballad a la Jason Crabb where we are submerged into a genre that isn’t necessarily CCM (quite frankly, southern gospel isn’t my first musical genre I’d listen to), yet Charles manages to deliver a powerful and emotive vocal performance, one of his best on Right Here. A song that encourages us to declare that ‘…I can say God is good, even when He’s not understood, if He gives or He takes, His love will never change, He’s given me the proof…’, Charles manages to pack quite a lot of poignant biblical truths within one of the shortest songs on the album.
“There’s Nothing My God Cannot Do” highlights the acoustic guitar as the prominent instrument as we are reminded that a good song isn’t necessarily one that has a lot of drums or electric guitars, yet one that has a steady beat, great lyrics and a melody that is easily singable. “There’s Nothing My God Cannot Do” fits all of these criteria as Charles brings to us a song that is as encouraging as it is affirming of what we believe God is capable of doing, both in our lives personally as well as in the situations we’re in. The hymn-like structure of the chorus is a great asset for Charles, as I am instantly singing along to the truth that God is ‘…so big, my God, my rock, so mighty, strong, and true, I am held in the arms who hung the highest stars, there’s nothing my God cannot do…’ Charles also records a rendition of the popular Delirious? hit “Majesty”, and while the song stays true to the original 2004 version, Charles nevertheless places his own spin on the melody, omitting the light acoustic bridge that was in the original in favour of a more anthemic electric guitar undertone. While the song makes me long for Delirious? to reunite again, even if it is only for one more album, Charles nevertheless gives us a nice dose of nostalgia as we’re reminded that songs transcend more than the artist singing it, that it can have the same impact when it is covered as it can sung by the original artist.
Throughout the rest of the album, Charles continues to bring to us encouragement after encouragement as each of these remaining songs are reminders of who we are to look towards when we’re living our day-to-day lives walking in this Christian life. “Mountain Tops” continues to marry together 1980s style music with worshipful truths and a vocal similar to that of Phillips, Craig and Dean; as the song presents a theme of blessing the Lord in all situations- in the valleys and the mountaintops; while “Jesus, You Are” presents to us some great themes of declaring Jesus to be above any other, yet sadly lacks in execution- the melody is something that I may have heard before while the theme has actually been recorded in a much richer and more melodic version in One Sonic Society’s “Jesus, You Are (Holy)”- which is sad, because even though I know Charles delivered 100% on the track, it sadly didn’t connect with me. Nevertheless, the song may connect with someone else, and that is ok. Still- one hiccup in an album of 11 isn’t that bad.
The title track “Right Here” allows Charles to place on his Jason Crabb hat once again as the song is one of the best ballads on the album. The song is a comfort to many, as Charles presents a song that states that God is right here in the midst of our struggles, regrets, hurts, disappointments, even in our moments of triumphs, victories, achievements and successes. And since He’s right here with us, we can place everything that we have onto Him- our worries, questions and searchings, our musings and desperations, our issues and chaotic lives we are living at the moment. A great title track, Charles also delivers on “Hallelujah for the Saviour”, a CCM-esque Newsboys feel song that gives us a reason to declare ‘hallelujah’- for the cross, the blood, for redemption and for our Saviour Himself; “The Blood of Jesus”, a song also primed to be sung in Sunday morning worship services and a reimagining if you will of the ever popular hymn “Nothing But the Blood”, and “Horizon”, another southern gospel infused album ender that encourages us all to keep our eyes fixed towards the horizon, what is set before us which is running the race until the finish line of heaven, neither looking to the left, right or behind us as we are fixed on Jesus.
Charles also sings a duet with worship leader Meredith Andrews on “See You Again”, a wonderful highlight for me as the song sets a theme which is hardly sung about in worship songs before- longing for God to recreate the wonderful miracles of the past in the here and now. Everything that was said about in the bible- we do want to see them all again, which is what this song is about. Both Charles and Meredith sing very well on the track, to the point where the song could’ve even fitted on Meredith’s new album Deeper, and it would’ve been a seamless addition. Kudos to both Charles and Meredith for such a powerful song…maybe an eventual single in the future months ahead?
‘…I think every decision you make, every sin you commit, everything ultimately is a worship issue, as a believer. Everybody worships something or someone, every moment of every day. So, who or what you’re worshiping will determine the choices you make—financially, physically, everything…’ Sobering words from quite possibly one of today’s most underrated worship artists, Charles Billingsley’s new album Right Here is enjoyable, heartfelt, comforting, confronting, and everything else in between as all the songs (but one) strike a chord, and remind us all that worship can be delivered and choreographed in a variety of styles, from southern gospel to reflective to pop and straight out vertical worship. With a great standout duet with Meredith Andrews and a litter of southern gospel influences throughout, this is a great album if you enjoy other similar artists like Meredith, Jason Crabb, Chris Tomlin or Paul Baloche. Vocally reminiscent of Russ Lee from Newsong, Phillips, Craig and Dean and Jason Crabb; Charles’s honest songwriting and amazing vocal ability is what I reckon will propel Right Here in becoming a standout album in March 2016. Well done Charles for such an enjoyable album, and one that will be on my iTunes playlist for a while to come!
3 songs to listen to: See You Again, God is Good, There’s Nothing My God Cannot Do
RIYL: Chris Tomlin, Meredith Andrews, Jason Crabb, Phillips Craig and Dean, Newsong