Release Date: April 26th 2019
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- You Will Make a Way
- Looking Back at Me
- 3:16 (No Greater Love)
- Pray With You
- Walking With The Light
- Out of My Hands
- Lay It Down
- Love More
- Home to the Water
- My Love
- My God
- Saving Me
- Lay It Down (Acoustic)
- My God (Radio Version)
Maybe it’s just me, but there’s just something about country music that makes me both appreciate the genre but totally understand that the genre itself isn’t my preferred one, if given a choice. But yet, I find myself again and again enjoying songs that have always had a country edge to them. Carrie Underwood- touted the queen of modern country, has always released songs that I have appreciated and come to love over the years. Third Day, now disbanded, have throughout their career, tread the thin line between southern gospel and country, and it has shown much in their music. Artists like Rhett Walker Band, Avalon and Karyn Williams have all had country-style influences throughout their career at one point or another. And then more recently, artists like Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts and superstar powerhouse country vocalist Martina McBride; have all captured my listening ear, and I’ve delved into a genre that is at best poignant and enjoyable, and at worst, a misunderstood genre that often gets swept under the rug. Country as a genre, has always been pivotal and necessary to the music industry and music as a whole, and at times, I’ve felt country music to seem more real and raw, honest and at times hopeful, compared to the modern pop on the radio at the moment. So enter in Mallary Hope, another country artist by the history of her career, but in 2017, she shifted to make a CCM album, her self titled EP that released in November 2017 that spawned the hit song ‘Now’. Now fast forward to April 2019, and we see her unveil to us her first full-length album titled Out of My Hands, encompassing her self titled EP (except the acapella covers of ‘It is Well’ and ‘Amazing Grace’), alongside her chart-topping poignant radio single of 2018, ‘Me’.
Released late last year, and touted as the first radio single from Out of My Hands; ‘Me’ was written by Mallary when she was on tour, as we’re reminded of the song’s simple, yet equally profound message, that we can be ourselves, or in blunt terms, I can be me. The me that is not perfect, the me that can often be prone to anxiety or worry or even fear. The me that may not have it all together all the time, even if on the outside, that may seem the case. The me that often get things muddled and can’t see the bigger picture whenever I’m focusing on something I want to accomplish. But in order to be ourselves, we need to understand who we are, on an individual level. Yes we are loved unconditionally by God and our family. Yes we are God’s children, we are sons and daughters of the King of Kings. We are champions of the weak and lowly, the advocators for those who can’t speak for themselves. But what are we beyond that? Who are we as individual people? What are our likes and dislikes? What are our political thoughts, however extreme or moderate they can present themselves? What’s our favourite genre of music or even favourite genre of movie/TV show? What are our passions, what are we good at? Are we encouragers, good with people, or are we the mathematical kind, always analysing issues and solving problems? Whatever we can discover about ourselves on a personal level, let us all know that we can be ourselves in the presence of a Father who loves and adores us, and understands that whether we change or not, it doesn’t waver love he lavishes over us. For such a song like ‘Me’ is as lifechanging as it is catchy and super-pop; and has been one of my favourite songs, ever, of late.
‘Now’, ‘Pray With You’, ‘My God’, ‘Looking Back at Me’ and ‘You Will Make a Way’, alongside her acoustic version of ‘Lay It Down’; were all unveiled to us prior to Out Of My Hands, and while it can seem on the surface that this album is half re-hash, I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy these songs that were released prior to this album, and yes, it can seem like Mallary is re-releasing songs because there isn’t enough material to release a full album of all-new songs. But, for a lot of people, this could be the first time they encounter such a profound and powerful artist, and thus, all these songs I’ve just mentioned (aside from ‘Me’) are certainly deserving in her first full length album, even if they were released in the form of an EP a couple of years prior. ‘Now’, a song that was heavily on the radio, especially Air1, during 2017, is a reminder to look at life through the lens of God’s eyes, and seeing the fact that He who was with us countless times before when we were struggling or feeling discouraged, is with us now and always, till the end. Often during times in life, we may find ourselves in places we never thought we’d end up, and often it’s through faith in God alone, placing one foot in front of the next and trusting that He has a plan bigger and better than we can ever fathom, that we can truly move out from the rut we often create ourselves when we’re in the presence of the pit. For Mallary uses such a song as ‘Now’, alongside 2 Corinthians 5:7 (for we walk by faith, not by sight), to encourage us in our Christian walk, that our faith in Jesus ought not to be based upon emotion or what we may be feeling at a certain moment, but rather, on what we know to be true, even if we don’t know how or why such events have occurred in our lives thus far. ‘Pray With You’ is a moment of realisation that often praying is all we can do in a circumstance- that even if there is nothing else we can do in such a situation that can seem unavoidable, we still have prayer. As Mallary offers, this song ‘…was inspired by my friend Courtney who lost her battle with Breast Cancer. I miss her every day and know she’s in a place where there is no more pain, no more tears, and no more cancer…’ And hearing such a song that was borne out of a terrible experience that happened to Mallary’s friend, I am amazed at how such a positive and hopeful song can come out of something so dark. Usually if a friend succumbs to their injuries, we usually ask the question ‘why’, but not in this song. Mallary still leans on prayer, even after an event with her friend, and a song like ‘Pray With You’ requires much boldness and strength to even write and declare. I’m sure during the months after the tragic experience, Mallary questioned things, yet, hearing a song like ‘Pray With You’, I am reminded, that God still loves us and is the same regardless, and that there are times when He takes the pain away, and there are times when that doesn’t happen. Yet even still, God is on the throne, He is still God, and we will still pray for miracles. Our faith won’t waver because of a certain outcome, and Mallary’s song ‘Pray With You’ will hopefully be a reminder of this- that our faith is not based on a feeling, but on who God is and what He has done all those years ago- even if He doesn’t do anything for us from here on, we will still praise Him.
‘You Will Make a Way’ is another radio friendly track where Mallary vocally reminds me so much of Karyn Williams, as we are presented with a song about how God makes a way when there may seem that no way is possible. And while such a song and it’s themes has been done to death over the years, what Mallary has done is breathe new life into an old and timeless theme that we all need to hear, often on a daily basis. God does in fact make a way in circumstances when it may seem impossible, and this song will hopefully encourage us all to take in and understand this fact. ‘My God’, co-written with Grayson Reed vocalist Molly Reed as well as acclaimed producer Josh Bronleewe, is a song that is destined to become a radio single in the future- there’s even a ‘radio version’ of the song attached to the album as the last track! Mallary attempts to pull off a worship song of sorts; and succeeds for the most part. While the song still is in the confides of ‘radio friendly track’, the song itself declares great truths of who God is and who He is to those who believe in Him. As the chorus presents to us, we are reminded that He indeed is ‘…my God, He’s the giver of endless grace and the King above all creation, still, He knows my name, my God, loves me deeper than the deepest ocean, always with His arms wide open for me…’
‘Lay It Down’ is recorded acoustically for a re-release of Mallary Hope EP that was unveiled in February 2018 (and is both featured in its acoustical form and its studio radio recording here on Out of My Hands), and presents a theme of laying down the things that bug and plague us, at the feet of Jesus, and knowing that He is fully capable at handling all the mess we can throw at Him. While the song could’ve been assumed to be an afterthought on Mallary Hope EP, added in after the real release of the EP in November 2017, only for the EP to release again, this time with ‘Lay It Down (Acoustic)’ in February 2018; the song nevertheless is one of my own personal favourites, and for me, the original studio recording enhances the track all the more. ‘Looking Back at Me’ rounds out the ‘pre-release’ tracks present on this 17-track album, with a heartfelt mainstream-esque track about declaring and singing a song over loved ones (especially in this song, Mallary singing over her children). It is a reminder of how parents can have tremendous love for a child; and want what’s best for them. ‘Looking Back at Me’, as spoken by Mallary herself, is ‘…probably my favorite song on the EP. It’s my favorite because it’s a song for my daughters. I hope they grow up to be fearless and shine as brightly as the sun! It feels like yesterday I was a little girl singing in my daddy’s church. I blinked and now I’m a mommy. It’s just a sweet little song…’ [NOTE: This excerpt of an interview was collated in 2017 upon the release of her EP, of which ‘Looking Back at Me’ was a part of]
Throughout the rest of the album, we see a variety of different musical styles, and songs that are just as poignant and heartfelt as the previous songs that were released prior to this year. ‘3:16 (No Greater Love)’ is a straight-out pop-radio melody that states that everything we go through in life, be it creation or even the price of food and drink in a café, or even the time of the day, is a reminder of the famous Bible verse that everyone, even if they aren’t a Christian, knows. A song that gives us a hope that in every situation and circumstance, we can be reminded that God is speaking through sometimes the oddest moments available (the time of the day, the price of food and drink, the speedometer on the car etc.); Mallary continues to deliver inspirational tunes; inviting us to partake in the PINK/Kelly Clarkson inspired ‘Walk With The Light’, a song that asserts that Mallary will be walking in the light, holding onto Christ in the dark times and knowing full well that His presence in us will light up the darkest of places; alongside the title track ‘Out of My Hands’, a vulnerable song that gives us a realisation that to place things out of our hands and into God’s is what is really needed to bring us freedom from controlling such outcomes that are often too difficult or even impossible to. ‘Out of My Hands’, similar in theme to the Jars of Clay song of the same name that was released on the 2010 album The Shelter; is hopefully a declaratory statement of realisation that we can find comfort in letting go, that holding on may only give us worry and grief when all we have to do is give control from us to the One who knows far greater than we can ever even fathom! As Mallary herself unveils what the song means for her, ‘…anytime we love something more than Jesus it will make us miserable. God answered every prayer that I ever prayed when it came to my musical success, but about five years ago I just felt empty. None of it was making me happy. So I prayed that He would take the love of music away from me—and show me who He wanted me to be. Now I sing with a different purpose—to tell others about His love. Have you ever had to lay the thing you love down at the altar of His feet?…’
‘Love More’ is a 2:50 pop melody with a keyboard-piano undertone that realises the importance of love and showing love, even in the moments where love is the farthest from our mind. As we are Sons and Daughters of Christ, we are called to a higher standard, we are reminded that Christ within us can give us strength to love the unloveable, and that loving others can also give ourselves hope and comfort when in situations where our very concepts of what it means to love someone we don’t’ want to is called into action. Mallary continues along the theme of love and forgiveness in ‘Home to the Water’, an acoustically driven light percussion track, that is sung from God’s point of view and is a track that asks us all who wander to come back home to the water, in a metaphorical sense. Christ and is healing attributes, and the necessity of Him in our lives spiritually, is what water is to us physically as well. Again mostly sung from God’s P.O.V. (aside from the first verse where it is in the view of the persona i.e.- us!), ‘My Love’ is a song that allows us to fully comprehend the depth and height and width of His love for us, unconditional of course. It is a song that can hopefully give epiphany to people alongside reassurance and a reaffirmation of what we already believe to be true, as people hear the song and hopefully come out more inspired and hopeful than prior. The 17-track album closes with ‘Yours’ and ‘Saving Me’ (aside from the acoustical ‘Lay it Down’ and the radio edition of ‘My God’), ‘Yours’ being an acoustic melody that gives us a revelation that all we have to do to be with God is just reach and believe. Just from where we are in our lives, we don’t have to clean up our acts first and then reach for Him, but rather, as we are in the wretchedness we are in, we can look to our Father and understand that He can fill our needs, even before we can articulate them on our lips. ‘Saving Me’ rounds out the album, again having an acoustical backdrop with pulsating percussion and drums, as the song puts forward this theme that we are forever work-in-progress’s, that God is still saving us all of our days, we are still being refined by His love and convictions, that our old selves, still fighting with our new loving Christian nature, will still be in an inward spiritual duel inside of us until we reach heaven. And that’s ok- we are being redeemed each day, and it is in light of such realisation that ‘…we are free to struggle, we’re not struggling to be free…’ (a song lyric from one of my favourite bands, Tenth Avenue North, the title track from their 2012 album The Struggle!).
It’s hard when artists cross over and record an album (or song) that is not in their ‘natural genre’. Like Stephen Christian, ex-lead singer of the now disbanded Anberlin, who just released a worship album on BEC Recordings in 2017, or Hillary Scott in 2016, lead singer of Country trio Lady Antebellum, releasing her debut Christian album Love Remains, garnering success and critical acclaim in the months afterward. Artists are sadly ‘pigeonholed’ into a certain genre of music, and any such deviation from this and we as listeners’ pounce, attacking at every turn. Still, we realise that often, artists who do make such a genre shift ought to be commended, branching out into genres they’ve never tried in the past is bold and encouraging to many, listeners and fellow musicians and bands alike. Mallary Hope has done so with both her EP released in 2017, and her full-length album now. Still having a country flair, her focus surrounding her own Christian faith that is interwoven in each song on the album, is what I reckon will set her apart from various other CCM albums and artists moving forward. While Mallary’s popularity is far from country mainstays like Lady Antebellum or even Carrie Underwood; her honest songwriting and powerful vocals alone is what I reckon will allow not only this album, but Mallary’s music in general, to blossom moving forward. While I did correctly predict of a full length album release when I unveiled my own thoughts of ‘Me’ last year; Mallary has invited us into 17 songs of hope, encouragement and an aristic flair that marries both Country and CCM very nicely, hopefully garnering fans from both genres to at least check out her music once! Well done Mallary for such a solid and well-rounded album, one of my favourites in 2019 thus far!
3 songs to listen to: Lay It Down, My God, Me
RIYL: Carrie Underwood, Jana Kramer, Natalie Grant, Lady Antebellum, Avalon, Karyn Williams, Julie Elias, Martina McBride