Release Date: June 10th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- God With Us
- Christ Be All Around Me
- We Are Returning
- Refresh Me
- All-Consuming Fire
- Where You Are
One of the finds of 2006, Leeland burst on the scene of CCM/pop/worship music with their hit single “Sound of Melodies”, with lead singer Leeland Mooring previously co-writing more than half of the songs on Michael W. Smith’s 2006 album Stand. The success of their debut album Sound of Melodies led to much more radio success, with songs like “Count Me In”, “Brighter Days”, “Follow You” and more recently “The Great Awakening” and “I Wonder”, being some of the songs that listeners attribute to the band when the listen to Leeland’s music. Alongside artists like All Sons and Daughters, Gungor and Crowder, Leeland have been able to reinvent and even enhance the worship genre and experience.
Each of their albums showcases the band’s skill to provide to us enjoyable songs, while also showing us heartfelt moments of encouragement and being a comfort to many. Having the ability to also create spaces for us to feel uncomfortable as we yearn after God and what He has for us, Leeland’s latest offering- a 6 song live EP (their first without a label backing); is nothing short of enjoyable, poignant and emotive. With the ability to write songs in a maturity far beyond his 25 years, Leeland Mooring has offered us a timely album as we use Christ Be All Around Me as a tool of great worship, further proving success by artists, even without labels and their backing of projects.
With the song written by both Leeland and All Sons and Daughters (and previously on Michael W. Smith’s Sovereign and the duo’s self-titled second album), “Christ Be All Around Me” is one of my favourite worship songs of the year so far. With a hauntingly refreshing piano introduction that brings Leeland in to declare the assuredness of God’s presence around us; both Leeland and David Leonard from All Sons and Daughters craft a powerful and emotive duet. Though primarily piano driven, Leeland’s melody (that’s almost certain to become a worship classic in years to come) is enough to anchor the 6 track album- the poignancy of the track alone is a good reason to listen to these 6 tracks, that, when you hear the songs from first melody to last, seem sadly short- you’d want to hear more from the band after you finish the last song on the EP. A great reminder to have in everyday life as we know that Christ is all around us in everything we are tasked to do and accomplish; Leeland have shown us what great worship music sounds like, as Christ Be All Around Me: Live quickly becomes one of my favourite EP’s of 2014 so far!
Originally released as an acoustic music video in 2013, “Refresh Me” is a calling for us to allow God to refresh and renew us from the busyness and the lives we lead. With light electric guitars and Leeland’s enthusiastic voice, we are met with powerful proclamations from the get-go, as Leeland usurps that ‘…You are my shelter from the hurricane, You are my rock, You are my shade, You never change, always the same, God refresh me…’ A simple song that follows a structure that’s all too predictable at times (verse, chorus, bridge, chorus); “Refresh Me” still brings us into a place of worship with abandonment, and also one of the standouts on this great, albeit short, selection of songs.
Both “God With Us” and “We Are Returning” are the upbeat melodies that seemingly stand out (in a good way) amongst an EP of songs primarily shown in a reflective manner, and both equally showing the beauty in lyrical simplicity as Leeland proclaims in the first track that ‘…You are God with us, You are Emmanuel…’, and Jack (first time I’ve heard him sing lead in a song) cries out in “We are Returning” that ‘…we are returning to fullness, You are our breath and our life, trusting in all of Your goodness, forever, we’re hidden in Christ…’ While it may sound strange that Jack is singing this aforementioned melody and “All-Consuming Fire” (a piano led song that encourages God to show us His fire and stir inside us passions for God’s presence and an urgency for evangelism), when all you know is Leeland singing; Jack’s voice brings out the best in both of the songs, making these two songs also highlights on the EP.
Finishing off the EP with an 8 minute “Where You Are”, a song that shows us what adoration looks like (that we can only be where God is and wants us to walk into) and is sadly too long for its own good (frankly, I felt sleepiness come upon me after around 5 minutes…); Leeland have nevertheless offered and EP that’s still one of my favourites from 2014 so far. The prowess and poignancy created by Leeland and the band is nothing beyond extraordinary, and having that ability to express creativity in the form of worship is great. A worship experience that leaves you longing for more after the 6 tracks, this album together with others like Lex Anderson, LoveCollide and Hillary McBride form the backbone in quality from EP’s released in 2014 so far. Well done Leeland, Jack and the rest of the band as they continue to make great music, and sounding just as good now as they were back then when they were under Provident Label Group!
3 songs to listen to: God With Us, Refresh Me, Christ Be All Around Me
RIYL: Crowder, All Sons and Daughters, Chris Tomlin, Gungor