Release Date: February 24th 2015
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Faith Hope Love
- How You Love Me
- What I’m Trying to Say
- Our Hearts
- Psalm 56
- King & Savior
- The One I Love
- Soul on Fire
- Live Like You
- Marching On
“…This project has been a long time coming for me as writing is a form of expression where I can explain my feelings and what I’m thinking. Over the years as we’ve written for Kutless albums, most of these personal songs just didn’t fit what we were looking for so these particular songs began piling up. I’m excited to share these songs with everyone as they are a window into my heart and a reflection of who I am…” Kutless is one of the most popular and respected rock/pop/rock/CCM/worship bands in the music industry today. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, these rockers started out on Tooth and Nail Records, and later on BEC Recordings; and soon their hard rock style of music expanded a bit to include more pop rock and later on worship, to much debate, sometimes shunning by hard core fans, and embracing by other listeners. With plenty of smash hits in their discography, such as “Carry Me To The Cross”, “What Faith Can Do”, “You Alone”, “Sea Of Faces”, “Complete”, “Shut Me Out”, “Run”, “Even If”, “Better Is One Day”, and “Strong Tower”; Jon Micah Sumrall, the lead singer and founding member of the band, has decided to record a solo album.
Apparently there was quite a number of songs he wrote over the years that did not fit into the band culture or set-list, but friends and family really wanted these songs recorded. It seems that now is the time, with Faith And Family having been released this past February. Though some listeners may now boycott Kutless, and by association, Jon’s solo album, because of the rapid softening of their music genres (from hard rock to worship in under 10 albums!); I am not one of them. Though I have to say that Faith And Family isn’t my all-time favourite album of the year- leave that to albums from Audio Adrenaline, Christy Nockels, Plumb, Lauren Daigle, Third Day and Kevin Max to name a few! But it is nevertheless still poignant, with these hard hitting eleven melodies inspiring and motivating us to live for Jesus in a broken and fractured world. With roughly 50% of these acoustic guitar driven songs being full on worship songs to God, and the other half being romantic love songs to his wife, Jon has created a project he is passionate about, as he celebrates his faith and family. And no, this does not mean a Kutless breakup (they are releasing a new album either at the end of this year or next year!), but rather, an extension of who Jon is as a musician, worship leader and a songwriter as he breaks down his relationship with God further in these personal tracks.
Immediately from the first piano note of the contemplative “Faith Hope And Love”, we realise that transparency, authenticity and intimacy with God is the key to pointing people to Jesus, with this song relaying that ‘…faith is like a covering, and hope is all the strength I need, hide me in Your love…’. As Jon voices the notion that God enables us to have faith, hope AND love so that we can further our relationship with Him, and successfully share our love of God with others; this poignant uplifter encourages us to actively seek God and the fruits of the Spirit as we go forth and spread the gospel to those who don’t know Him yet.
The piano led epic worship anthem and prayer “Our Hearts” is another inspiring melody about God’s presence in our lives, which also includes an altered refrain of the 3rd verse of “Silent Night”. Jon ardently reminds us that God is the Maker of everything in this world, with the subsequent chorus including an earnest prayer singing to God ‘…our hearts cry out, ‘You’re the one we love’, we need You now, so let Your kingdom come…’, while the resounding and orchestral like instruments included give the song extra depth. In the piano led mid-tempo ballad “Psalm 56”, also driven by the bass guitar; Jon passionately outlines to God his worries, troubles and fears, calling out to Him in a dire situation, asking Him to turn the enemy away from us. Because God is all we could and should ever need, we can put our faith in Him and we do not have to be afraid.
While “King And Savior” features an emotional and honest Jon pointing out his flaws and admitting to God that we need Him, that ‘…You’re my king, You’re my Savior, I owe You everything, You’re my king, You’re my Savior, I give You everything…’, across acoustic guitar and vibrant piano; “Soul On Fire”, the melody epitomising the theme of the album, is a testimony like worship anthem, declaring that Jesus has set our soul on fire, that ‘…You opened up my eyes, You came and saved my life…’. Not to be confused with Third Day’s equally impressive song of the same name, Jon Micah has recorded a testimony type of song especially, with the melody containing plenty of vivid imagery referencing Christ’s death and resurrection, reminding us that we are free and are a new creation.
The electronic and keys driven “Live Like You” outlines Jon’s personal viewpoints on living life on our own, then beautifully juxtapositioning this notion with the security and newfound freedom we have when we live in Christ. As Jon passionately cries out that ‘…[I] don’t want to become just a little stronger, I want the strength I see in You, don’t want to hold on just a little longer, I want to live like You…’, our yearning to live more like Jesus heightens just a bit. The final melody directed to Jesus, is the epic pulsating drum led “Marching On”, which employs a marching beat to add extra depth, as Jon reminds us that to fix any broken relationship that God must be in it, and fighting alongside us for the relationship, as we march on forwards to what He want for us. With the song having a double meaning as well (it could be a war for our souls between God and the devil); this song thematically reminds me of Mandisa’s “Press On”. Well done Jon for including a song that confronts and comforts us, as we stand up and rise for what we believe in!
The remainder four songs are directed to Jon’s wife, and while some listeners may ‘tune out’ as these songs could seem like they do not apply to them, these gems and treasures can be prayer that we can strive for to describe our love between us and God. “How You Love Me” is loosely based on Proverbs 31 and depicts Jon’s growing love for his wife ‘…even more than the day I said I do…’. Driven by light percussion and captivating acoustic guitar, Jon speaks about how his wife walks with him, and is thoughtful of others, and is faithful even in the midst of trouble. This is what I aim to look for in a future spouse, and this song actively spurs me on to ask God to reveal my future spouse when the timing is right. Next is “What I’m Trying To Say”, a mid tempo acoustic guitar ballad where Jon spends 4 and a half minutes trying to say to his wife, and adequately relay that he loves her. A moving and inspiring song that beautifully encapsulates the meaning of love, yet is only a fraction of the love that God has for us, Jon has expertly crafted a meaningful melody certain to be a hit in the coming years.
While “The One I Love” is a straight up love song, where Jon thanks God for his wife and the rock and security she has been for him (there a few clichés in this melody, but anyway…); the album ender “Picture” finishes Faith And Family with a yearning and fervent request to God to let tiem stand still so that we can cherish the time with our loved ones more, and with everything else that we hold dear to us. Once again directed to his wife, Jon has expertly and honestly outlined how in the past he and his wife didn’t have time for each other, however as time went on, their ‘pictures’ changed, and now they are spending plenty of time with each other. Well done Jon for a thoughtful and inspiring melody, ending what has been a thoroughly enjoyable album worth many listens!
Though at times sounding similar to Kutless, Jon Micah Sumrall has forged an alternative path, and one that hopefully will remain open when Kutless ends when God wants the band to. Jon’s prowess as a songwriter and singer are quite remarkable, and I can’t wait for Jon’s future projects. Though Kutless will always be the band that everyone will talk about, for both the CCM and rock music styles, and their divergence in styles; Jon’s musical genres are almost similar, which is in itself a good thing, as we can know what to expect. With acoustic, worship and pop/rock all working together in harmony; Faith And Family is sure to wow us. Fans of Sanctus Real, Jeremy Camp and The Afters will certainly love this new offering from Jon Micah Sumrall.
3 songs to listen to: Psalm 56, Soul On Fire, Faith Hope And Love
RIYL: Sanctus Real, The Afters, Matthew West, Big Daddy Weave, Sidewalk Prophets