Release Date: October 16th 2015
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- I Stand Here
- One Great Passion
Casting Crown’s debut self titled album released in 2003, 12 years ago. 6 studio albums later, and a bunch of live and Christmas albums inbetween, we see another artist break their way through to release their debut EP this month of October. The first artist on the newly formed label Made to Thrive Records, new artist Hannah Kerr sounds awkwardly familiar. Her singing style, the music that undertones each of the five songs present on I Stand Here: The EP. In some ways, she eerily sounds musically similar to Casting Crowns in every way. The female version of the band? Possibly. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing- John Waller released his debut label album The Blessing back in 2007, and he was likened to the band in terms of style. Once again, Hannah’s stylistic musical choreography that backdrops each track is as if the tracks could’ve been sung by Mark Hall and still would’ve had the same impact, which is a testament to the quality of the songwriting on the album, and the poetic and powerful nature of Hannah’s singing, for myself to say that the same enthusiasm in lead singer Mark Hall’s voice is also present with Hannah. Delivering these 5 tracks before a full length album is released in the near future; Hannah’s relevance and future within the CCM industry looks bright, especially with the success of title track “I Stand Here”.
With her first single “I Stand Here” releasing to radio earlier in September, Hannah has delivered quite possibly one of the most engaging and enjoyable singles by a new artist since songs like “The River” (Jordan Feliz), “You Are Loved” (Stars Go Dim) and “From the Day” (I Am They). With a piano prominent introduction, we hear passion, heartfelt worship and a style only Casting Crowns can create (yes, dare I say that Hannah is the female version of the Mark Hall led band, which could mean both critical acclaim and harsh criticism at the same time), as Hannah invites us all to come to Jesus, standing before His holiness as we are reminded that He raises us ‘…up on eagle’s wings, give my soul Your bigger dreams, breathe your life into me…’ Vocally reminding me of Nichole Nordeman and Lauren Daigle, Hannah’s fervent urgency to deliver a message of offering, surrender and worship is what I reckon will propel “I Stand Here” to become a popular message amongst lovers of worship, Casting Crowns and everything else in between. A popular song that’s only going to increase in popularity due to radio marketability in months to come, well done Hannah for being the first artist to Made to Thrive Records. Kudos to the team for the first single, and here’s hoping following radio singles are as popular, and maybe even more so, than the first!
The first song on the album, I initially suspected the song “Warrior” to be a cover of Steven Curtis Chapman’s chart-topping song. Nevertheless, this original song by Hannah is a reminder to many that we are in fact warriors, leaders, fighters, soldiers, sons and daughters of the living High King. To be a warrior isn’t necessarily to be victorious in all the battles we face, but rather learning and growing from the adversity we may find ourselves in on a daily basis. With gang vocals and a looping electronic keyboard beat; Hannah brings to the fore themes of declaration, assertion and crying in the face of battle, knowing that in every circumstance we face; God is fighting alongside us and for us. The chorus makes the message clear, that ‘…you’ll never stop me, I’m a warrior, when I fall down, I get stronger, faith is my shield, Your love is the armour, I’m a warrior…’ With its definition alluding to being a person of great strength, vigour, fearlessness and skill, it is only by the grace of God and the promise of our Father and friend that we can indeed call ourselves what this song is declaring about.
With the piano being the prominent instrument in “Alive”, we see the tempo shifted down and reflectiveness take centre stage in a melody that gives us comfort in the fact that what God says about us makes us who we are, that ‘…He’s says you are worthy, worthy, and who you are is all that He needs…’ while “One Great Passion” feels like something an artist from Passion Conferences (maybe Kristian Stanfill or Christy Nockels) would sing, as Hannah presents to us a relatively easy-to-learn/sing melody about how Jesus ought to be our one ‘…great passion burning in my life, I’ve spent all my days for the cause of Christ…’ “One Great Passion”, through probably the most worshipful, and therefore at times seemingly formulaic when it comes to any type of worshipful melody I’ve heard throughout the years, the song is still as enjoyable as the rest of Hannah’s music- here’s hoping “One Great Passion makes it into any Sunday morning worship set-list in any country in the near future. “Generation” rounds out group of 5 songs, with a marching band-like drum beat as Hannah presents to us a theme of never being too young, or even too old, to follow Christ and be an example of what it means to be on fire for Him. The phrase ‘…you’re never too young to follow Jesus…’ is something we all should take note of, and reflect upon what it means to indeed take our cross and follow the one person who laid it all down for us to live. Possibly my favourite song on I Stand Here EP, Hannah has set up a great platform to build upon for albums to come. Well done Hannah for such a poignant melody, and one to take notice of if we long to be a generation on fire for our God and King!
While the EP is a tad short (maybe a couple more songs, “Lifeline” or “Love I Leave Behind”, both of which are released on her youtube page acoustically), I suspect Hannah has a full length album projected to be released in the future. And with both “Lifeline” and “Love I Leave Behind” all but assured to be on her new album, Hannah’s introduction into CCM is nothing short of poignant and heartfelt. Sure, she may be a carbon copy of Casting Crowns in quite possibly every way, yet it is her fervent enthusiasm to present to us songs that make us think in terms of a kingdom mentality that I’m sure will propel her to new heights in months to come. From the title track to “Generation” and “Warrior”, this is a must for any Casting Crowns fan, or if you love artists like Lindsay McCaul, Bethany Dillon or Nichole Nordeman. Well done Hannah for such an encouraging and compelling EP. Can’t wait til the full length, whenever it arises.
3 songs to listen to: Warrior, Generation, I Stand Here
RIYL: Lindsay McCaul, Nichole Nordeman, Casting Crowns, Bethany Dillon