Release Date: October 30th 2015
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- All the Way
- Eyes Open
With the influx of many newly signed and independent artists that have released music recently, from Julie Elias, Lexi Elisha, Erik Neider and Lauren Daigle, to NF, I Am They, Stars Go Dim and Zealand Worship, it’s hard to keep track of what’s new, and which artist to listen to if at all. We all have our favourites, from Casting Crowns and MercyMe, to Third Day, TobyMac and Francesca Battistelli. And while we’re comfortable in our generation, we can be very picky about the music we may listen to in the future. I know I can be picky myself. Now enter in Hannah Shaefer, with her first EP, All the Way. An artist who is almost certain to score a label signing sometime in the future, this teen lyrically and musically mature far beyond her years is an artist worthy of taking notice of. With her lyrical prowess similar to that of Holly Starr or Rebecca St. James, and her vocal reminding me of Tricia of Superchick, and Carrie Underwood; this is a must-have album for anyone who loves CCM/pop, and anyone who appreciates the fact that indie artists don’t necessarily have a fair go when they’re starting out. With passion and enthusiasm in Hannah that I’ve never heard in a while (since artists like NF and Lauren Daigle earlier this year), All The Way is a favourite of mine in 2015, and an EP certain to be on repeat on my iTunes playlist in months to come.
Releasing her title track “All The Way” as a single in 2014, newcomer Hannah Schaefer has delivered arguably one of my favourite songs by an independent artist since Kaleidoscope’s “Love Like You”- catchy, poignant, heartfelt and enjoyable, this melody co-written with respected songwriter Jeff Pardo is one of faith and trust, as we declare alongside Hannah that ‘…You know exactly what You’re doing, where my feet are moving, I don’t have to be afraid, cause You’re holding me together, every moment, every day, You’re with me all the way…’ A song where we assert our belief that God is with us, even during the moments where we may not feel like this truth resonates in our lives, “All the Way”, though CCM-esque, is nevertheless a standout, with Hannah’s vocals eerily reminiscent of Carrie Underwood. If Carrie went the CCM route? Then Hannah’s voice would be the product- which is not a bad compliment and comparison!
“Eyes Open”, “Warrior” and “GO” are the three remaining tracks on this 4 track EP, and with the continual passion and enthusiasm of Hannah through these songs, we are reminded of the lyrical and musical maturity of Hannah far beyond her years. “Eyes Open”, the only song on the EP that was inspired not from Hannah’s life but another friend of hers and how she was open to what Jesus had for her, the song is as declaratory as it is anthemic, with powerful guitars and emotive singing giving us a great reminder that ‘…I’ve got my eyes, my eyes open…my life unbroken, there’s a new heart beating inside of me, I was blind so long but now I see…’; while “Warrior”, in a similar lyrical vein to Hannah Kerr’s “Warrior” and Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Warrior”, paints a picture of how we are warriors in Christ, that nothing and no one can shake our faith. Vocally placing on the Plumb-meets-RSJ hat, Hannah invites us into this 3:21 song that declares that ‘…even when the fight gets hard, remember the Lord is on your side, remember who you are…’ “GO” rounds out the 4 tracks, and is the most electronic of the 4. Light acoustics and a heavy presence of keyboards delivers a lighter airy feeling, as Hannah sings some of the most vulnerable lyrics on the EP- that if we are called by God to go to wherever He longs for us to be in a certain moment, we ought to answer and say ‘yes’- even if we may not know the details of how and why. It is simply because of His sacrifice that we obey, knowing that ‘…all that I am, all that I have, I will surrender…my dreams and my plans, I’ll hold nothing back…’ (“GO”).
While the only downside is that the EP is too short, Hannah’s introduction into CCM is nothing short of something unique, powerful, heartfelt and poignant, as these songs all remind us that an independent artist can deliver high quality production and still produce songs worthy enough to be enjoyed and listened to again and again by fans of CCM, worship music, indie artist and those who just want to listen to something new that isn’t the same ol’ K-Love/Air 1 radio artists. Hannah’s music is refreshing, different and enjoyable. Though it may be a wait until Hannah’s debut full-length album, these 4 songs give us a teaser of what Hannah’s music will be, as we wait in anticipation with what I reckon will become one of my favourite debut full-length albums by an indie artist in 2016. Well done Hannah for these four tracks. May this EP continue to impact and influence whomever listens in the weeks and months to come!
3 songs to listen to: Eyes Open, All the Way, GO
RIYL: Tricia, Rebecca St. James, Jaimie Jamgochian, Carrie Underwood, Holly Starr, Plumb