Shane & Shane – The Worship Initiative

shane-shane

Fair Trade Services

Release Date: April 28th 2015

Reviewed by Joshua Andre

Shane & ShaneThe Worship Initiative (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. God of Ages Past (4:25)
  2. Seas of Crimson (5:01)
  3. This I Believe (4:12)
  4. Scandal of Grace (3:55)
  5. Forever (4:43)
  6. Jesus Loves Me (3:55)
  7. Christ Be All Around Me (5:33)
  8. You Make Me Brave (5:13)
  9. Great Are You Lord (3:57)
  10. Man of Sorrows (5:11)
  11. So I Can Love (Radio Version) (3:58)
  12. All the Poor and Powerless (Radio Version) (4:12)

Shane & Shane have been in and around the CCM and worship music industry for a while but it is only recently that I have started to listen to their unique and inspiring material and discography. Bring Your Nothing which released in 2013 was the first Shane & Shane album I had ever listened to from start to finish; and since then I have actively followed news and updates from them. Though it’s tough to hear different quality well known Christian bands, with a distinct edge and flavour; maybe the band I’m looking for is right under my nose.

Shane Barnard and Shane Everett make up pop/adult contemporary duo Shane & Shane, who’ve recorded on Inpop Records, and now Fair Trade Services since 2001. The two friends and business partners have the uncanny knack of creating pop, acoustic, folk and worship music that is slightly different, reminding me of the prowess of folk and acoustic contemporaries Andrew Peterson and Jason Gray, both of whom are some of my favourite artists currently. Following on from the successful Bring Your Nothing which does not disappoint; the Shanes recorded 10 independent worship cover albums titled The Worship Initiative Vol 1-10 and later on last year A Worship Initative Christmas all from a successful kickstarter campaign. Now, comes the 12th album in that instalment, simply titled The Worship Initiative released via Fair Trade Services. Releasing this past week, this album of popular worship songs and a few original worship songs are sure to inspire and be enjoyed, for private and corporate worship alike. Though many probably would have liked to hear more originals on a label album, it cannot be discounted that the execution and delivery of these songs are sublime and to perfection, as I listen to one of the most underrated covers worship albums over the past few years! After a quick listen to the 42 minute exquisite journey, no doubt your soul will be refreshed and renewed.

One of my favourite songs over the past year is Hillsong’s “This I Believe”, and the Shane’s cover the emphatic and powerful melody perfectly. The worship anthem is based off the Nicene Creed, and the light piano led hymn like track beautifully complements the duo’s searing vocals sung in mesmerising harmony. As the Shanes fervently sing out that ‘…I believe in God our Father, I believe in Christ the Son, I believe in the Holy Spirit, our God is three in one…’, we are immersed into a vertical worship song bound to impact any who listen. With the lyrical content simple yet effective, and the vocals brilliant as ever, it’s a nice reminder of our faith and the reason we worship Jesus, without being too flowery in the language. Its accessibility is great for me, and this song sets the tone for the rest of the album. The worship anthem “Forever”, written by Brian Johnson of Bethel Church and Kari Jobe, is driven by the piano, as well as swelling and rousing guitar later on in the song, and lyrically it’s easy to see why this track has had such an impact in the lives of many. Vividly and descriptively painting a picture of Jesus’ death and resurrection; our redemption story and also what heaven may look like, as the honest words of ‘…forever He is glorified, forever He is lifted high, forever He is risen, He is alive…’ ring out; and I can’t help but echo and agree with the Shane’s sentiments! Musically the track hits all of the right chords as well, as the duo’s infectious joy is undeniable, and there’s some skilful and explosive guitar and piano work as well.

Throughout the rest of the album, the Shanes transform worship covers into their own melodies, enhancing my enjoyment of these versions. Previously recorded on Bethel Music’s We Will Not Be Shaken, “Seas Of Crimson” is a hymn like piano led melody invoking pure and raw emotion, honesty and a sense of vulnerability and humbleness, as the Shanes ardently worship God, proclaiming eternal truths about His death and resurrection. Crying out ‘…Hallelujah death is beaten, Christ has risen from the grave, hallelujah it is finished, all to you the highest praise…’ across the reflective and subdued keys, the worship melody just may be my favourite of 2015, solely from this version, which was the first I’ve heard (nope, I haven’t heard Bethel Music’s version yet!); well done Shane & Shane for a moving and inspiring song! The topics of grace and Jesus’ death are further explored in Hillsong’s melodies “Scandal Of Grace” and “Man Of Sorrows”, reminding us that the band isn’t afraid to overtly reference truths about Jesus! An almost carbon copy of the 2011 original melody, the acoustic guitar rendition of “Scandal Of Grace” personally is more dynamic and eclectic, surprisingly; kudos to both Shanes as they eloquently sing about how God’s grace is big enough to wash away our sins and give us a new beginning. Singing this song frequently at the church I attend, it’s nice to see “Man Of Sorrows” present, as the Shanes bring us a worthy rendition of the Hillsong track; as I have come to appreciate the lyrics of the gospel, and the simplicity yet effectiveness of the music. As the duo unashamedly remind us that ‘…now my debt is paid, it is paid in full, by the precious blood that my Jesus spilled, now the curse of sin, has no hold on me, whom the Son sets free oh is free indeed…’, I find myself singing along and agreeing wholeheartedly about this very truth that never changes!

Covering Chris Tomlin’s “Jesus Loves Me” may raise some eyebrows (Chris isn’t known for being musically creative, according to many critics…) however this simple and effective guitar and keys based melody, in which the Shanes excel at as well, is wonderfully recorded. The inspiring melody hauntingly and refreshingly express how Jesus loves us and that ‘…He holds the stars and He holds my heart, with healing hands that bear the scars, the rugged cross where He died for me, my only hope, my everything…’, and this moving version has me echoing the Shanes’ sentiments in singing God’s praises.

While simple in its theme and lyrics, as the Shanes remind us of God’s greatness and faithfulness, it is the sheer emotion and evident heart for Jesus from the duo in “Great Are You Lord” that really gets me excited. Though the anthemic and epic like piano led chorus is sonically sublime, it is the first verse that gives me chills as the Shanes eloquently remind us that ‘…You give life, You are love, You bring light to the darkness, You give hope, You restore, every heart that is broken…’, where the song kicks off with a bang, and then proceeds from there to create a massive God moment. Lead by the strings as well as a beautifully played keyboard, both vocalists sing in harmony as we are transfixed by the message of God’s greatness and sovereignty. Later on in the song big booming drums are introduced, yet the song still maintains its acoustic flavour and root. Other highlights from the band include Bethel Music’s “You Make Me Brave”, a confronting yet powerful declaration and anthem driven by pulsating drums and moving electric guitar riffs, exploring the universal topic of fear- this song is the perfect remedy to anyone who’s afraid, to anyone who needs hope and encouragement in their lives as we are reminded in the stirring chorus that ‘…as You love, and wave after wave crashes over me, crashes over me, for You are for us, You are not against us, champion of heaven, You made a way for all to enter in…’; and the Michael W. Smith penned “Christ Be All Around Me”, with acoustic guitar and stirring keys in the forefront, informing us that Jesus is alive in everything that we do, reassuring us that we have nothing to fear in this life as God is all around us and in us.

Though the radio single “All The Poor And Powerless” was included on the independent The Worship Iniative Vol. 1 in 2014, this brand new recording features Bethany Dillon on backing vocals, and a crisper more fuller band sound, as we are treated to an inspiring and passionate take on the All Sons And Daughters classic, with the cover staying true to the original…mostly. With the addition of strings, vibrant electric guitar, as well as a captivating gospel choir, it is the bridge that is most impressive as they sing ‘…shout it, go on and scream it from the mountains, go on and tell it to the masses that He is God…’; and this is a welcome take on what I consider an anthem that will be timeless!

The final two songs are originals. “So I Can Love”, beautifully played with exquisite keys and skilful electric guitar, is a mid-tempo worship anthem, declaring that ‘…if my heart’s still beating, it’s only so I can love the Lord my God with all my heart…’, a prayer that we should all long to aspire to, to love those around us as we show the love of Jesus to the least of these. And the album opener is the quiet, reflective and modern hymn like piano led “God Of Ages Past”, reiterating that our hope, our lifeline, our Saviour is Jesus, and also asking God to start a fire and revival in us. As honest and earnest as the Shanes have been in this album, it seems like they are the most vulnerable in this particular song. Well done guys for inspiring us and inviting us into worship with these 12 melodies on The Worship Initiative!

A thoroughly enjoyable worship album, Shane & Shane’s The Worship Initiative is one to enjoy if you want to hear a worship album full of recognizable old and new favourites. Critics and listeners may think the duo have executed the album poorly as they only included two original songs, but I think that this reflects their heart for worship. Recording a covers album can be tough, as we are met with various renditions of old songs that are praised as well as heavily criticised and scrutinised, yet Shane & Shane make it all look easy! They have recorded a compelling and encouraging album that needs to be heard. If you want some worship music this year, this album is for you- this album is one of the most underrated this year! If people haven’t heard of Barnard and Everett before, they will listen to a pleasant surprise, and will certainly know them now! Well done guys for your gem of an album; I eagerly anticipate your next one!

3 songs to listen to: Seas Of Crimson, You Make Me Brave, So I Can Love

Score: 4/5

RIYL: Steven Curtis Chapman, Bebo Norman, Casting Crowns, MercyMe

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