Release Date: August 19th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Empty Handed
- A Little
- Jesus Be
- One More Step
- With the Brokenhearted (feat. Brandon Heath)
- Reaching Arms
- The In-Between
- Mess Like Me
- Rules the World
- Love Won’t Give Up
- More Certain than the Stars
One of my favourite female artists that released new music within the last few years has been Lindsay McCaul, previously on Reunion Records and now signed to Centricity Music. With a vocal reminiscent of someone like Nichole Nordeman, Amy Grant or Bethany Dillon; Lindsay’s enthusiasm and heartfelt writing makes her, in my opinion, one of the most underrated female CCM artists of the modern era. Having her own trademark piano-acoustic pop sound with her emotive ethereal vocals a la Nichole Nordeman (may I say that I reckon Lindsay is probably the Nichole Nordeman of this decade just like how Nichole was of the late 1990s and early 2000s?); Lindsay has managed to deliver an honest and heartfelt second label backed album in One More Step, via Centricity and releasing August 19th.
With Lindsay unveiling 11 songs, each with a timely message of God’s presence in us as we take one more step in this life on the journey into His presence, both in this life and the next; this Chicago-born singer/songwriter has been able to thrive in an industry that is sadly still male-dominated. From the first track “Empty Handed”, a song about coming to God with outstretched hands, to “With the Brokenhearted”, a piano and acoustic guitar ballad duet with Brandon Heath, and the ukulele driven “Mess Like Me”; One More Step is a mixture of cheerful and serious, fun and contemplative, convicting and enjoyable to make Lindsay’s second label album one of my favourite album releases in 2014 so far!
Released in June 2014, “Empty Handed” is one of my favourite Lindsay McCaul songs ever, and one of my favourite CCM melodies to be on the radio this year as well. A strong piano riff to bring the enthusiasm Lindsay shows (not only in this song but throughout the entire album) to life, we are reminded through this 4 minute track that everything we could ever know or amass is considered nothing but ‘empty’ when compared to the glory and splendour of what we have in Christ Jesus. A song about who we are in relation to Christ rather than to ourselves, “Empty Handed” is a conscious decision of us to make each day.
We are encouraged to come to Christ, not with something to give because we need to show up with something in view that God will frown upon us if we don’t; but rather because what we can give won’t amount to what He has given to us- so we don’t make the effort, surrendering to Him and allowing Himself to work in us as we are moulded to rely less on our traits and more on God’s character. One of the most enjoyable female vocals within the Christian music industry currently (alongside Francesca Battistelli and Meredith Andrews), it is Lindsay’s poignant quote about the song that makes me love it all the more, that the song was ‘…based on the apostle Paul’s conclusion that even with his impressive, perfect pedigree and resume, once he encountered Jesus he realized everything he thought he brought to the table was worth nothing compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus and being found in Him… Jesus loves us at our worst, and if we allow it, His love will change us to make us more like Himself…’ Well done Lindsay for one of the best Track #1’s on an album since needtobreathe’s “Wasteland”!
The rest of the album continues to follow the lyrical prowess and musical ingenuity that “Empty Handed” portrays, with Lindsay offering musical genres from pop, to acoustic to ballads and duets, to bring us to a musical landscape of both reflective songs and upbeat enjoyable melodies. “A Little” is a reminder of the parable of the mustard seed in the Bible, and how even with a little faith, we ought to expect that God can do much more that we even set out to expect. With an acoustic guitar and powerful drums, Lindsay asserts that ‘…there’s a lot You can do with a little…’; giving us confidence that God can transform what little we have and create a vast tapestry and something beautiful, even if we can’t see it at this point in time.
“Jesus Be” is a cry of asking Jesus to be everything- the rock, anchor, light, hope, comfort, friend and God, that is needed during our lives as Christians. One of the songs that has encouraged me in my own walk with Christ, it is Lindsay’s ethereal vocals (reminding me of the singing style of prolific songstress Nichole Nordeman) that lift the melody to new heights, standing tall amidst the other 10 on One More Step. “Reaching Arms”, an anthemic ballad with an underlying acoustic guitar riff, is a fervent encourager; that we don’t want anything to come between us and God. Whether it is fear, doubt, uncertainty or even the devil, we ought to ponder the phrase Lindsay declares, that ‘…I don’t wanna run from Your reaching arms, if they’re open to me, I don’t wanna hide from Your face anymore, if they’re full of mercy…I wanna be with You…’
“Mess Like Me”, recorded with a ukulele, presents a song of thanks, that even though we are messes, God chooses to meet us where we’re at, all the while making us know that ‘…Your hands are holding me when I’m falling apart, Your peace keeps calling all the crazy in my heart…Your love won’t leave even a mess like me…’, while “The In Between”, a pure pop melody a la Love and the Outcome, creates a sense of trusting in the waiting as Lindsay delivers one of the most catchiest lyric lines on the album, that ‘…right now all I’m longing for is what comes next, but I’ve found all You want is just another step, somehow…I can trust You with the in between…’ “More Certain than the Stars” carries this theme even further, declaring that God and who He says He is, is more certain than the stars (or anything else that we see in front with our eyes), which is why we can trust Him with the uncertainties (or the in between stages) in our lives. An album ender, “More Certain than the Stars” is a great way to end an album full of themes of trust and relying on God rather than ourselves.
Themes like God comforting those who are broken, breaking, or in the process of being in moulded to be like Christ (“With the Brokenhearted”), us being comforted that love, and especially God’s love, won’t give up on us in the circumstances where we may believe He has (“Love Won’t Give Up”), and giving up the control we so often long to cling to and let God rule the world (“Rule the World”), continue to assert Lindsay’s melodies as being some of the most poignant, enjoyable and heartfelt songs I’ve heard within the CCM industry (ever since Nichole’s work), yet it is the title track, “One More Step”, that is possibly one of Lindsay’s most personal songs ever written, and one of the standout songs on the tracklist of 11.
Sung about the grieving process of losing her father a few years ago, it is also a melody that is full of hope, knowing that as Christians, this life and the end of it is just the beginning- with us living forever in heaven. As spoken by Lindsay herself, ‘…I wanted to capture three major life moments with my Dad [through the song]—big transitions we shared that taught me that this race of life is a series of steps we take with one another. The relationships God puts in our lives are meant to sharpen and refine us as we learn to love one another, support one another, and run to God…’ With a piano and Lindsay’s emotive voice, the essence, heart and emotion are all captured beautifully to propel One More Step as one of my favourite albums of 2014, and arguably my second favourite album by a female artist in 2014 (only usurped by Francesca Battistelli’s If We’re Honest).
What can I say about Lindsay’s One More Step that I haven’t said already? Honest and enjoyable, heartfelt and fun-filled, this album is a must if you are a fan of artists like Nichole Nordeman, Amy Grant, Bethany Dillon or Christy Nockels, and an album to listen to if you are wanting something unique and different, compared to the radio friendly material on K-Love or Air1. Crafting 11 songs that’ll hopefully have an impact with everyone, Lindsay’s use of personal experience makes me appreciate the album, and her as an artist, more and more. An album for anyone who is struggling to place one step in front of the other, this is Lindsay’s best album to date, and a fine addition to Centricity Music, arguably one of the most underrated Christian labels that continue to bring us powerful albums from artists like Andrew Peterson, Aaron Shust and Jason Gray. Well done Lindsay for such a powerful, prolific and enjoyable album!
3 songs to listen to: The In Between, Empty Handed, Jesus Be
RIYL: Amy Grant, Bethany Dillon, Christy Nockels, Nichole Nordeman