Provident Label Group
Release Date: September 15th 2017
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Promised Land
- Song of Deliverance
- Chain Breaker
- Old Church Choir
- To the Table
- My Liberty
- Fear is a Liar
- Everything Changed
- So Good to Me
- Midnight Rider
- Washed Clean (Live)
If you would have to pick one new artist who made the most impact throughout 2016, you’d have to pick Zach Williams. Sure there are others like Urban Rescue, Hillary Scott (granted, she is not new, but rather a country artist and 1/3rd of Lady Antebellum who has branched out and released a solo country/hymns project), We are Messengers, Zealand Worship, Dan Bremnes, Hollyn, Hannah Kerr and Jordan Feliz to name a few; but Zach’s rise in popularity has been surreal, more like from a movie or TV show than anything else. With the release of Chain Breaker (that was since revealed to be a nomination for the Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year at the Annual Dove Awards 2017), both as an EP in September 2016 and as a full length 10 track album in January 2017; this now-once-in-a-rock-band-now-reformed pastor and Provident Label Group signee has captured our hearts with his southern rock/gospel music atmosphere, in a similar vein to that of Crowder or Third Day. Even if we may not enjoy the southern gospel genre that much, we all have heard of the song “Chain Breaker”, that was present on both WOW Hits 2017 and WOW Hits 2018 (releasing in October 2017). Zach’s move from being in a mainstream rock band, to pursuing a solo Christian music career after an encounter with God not too long ago, has resulted in music that is honest, hopeful, raw and emotive. His first full length album received plenty of acclaim- so much so that not too long ago, Zach released the deluxe edition of the album, complete with a few new tracks. Full of hope, life, passion and fervent urgency; this is a must-have for anyone who enjoys Christian Country music, and a certain to be on my iTunes playlist for a while yet.
In essence, this 15 song project is grouped into two- 10 songs that were previously on his full length album, as well as 5 new tracks (Promised Land, Home, Midnight Rider, Freedom, Washed Clean). So as to not regurgitate the last album review of the 10 songs to you all, of which I will link here, let me just say this in a nutshell- Zach Williams’ Chain Breaker is a must for anyone who loves southern Gospel, Christian Country or just anyone who loves CCM in general. In fact, songs like ‘Chain Breaker’, ‘To the Table’, ‘Old Church Choir’, ‘Song of Deliverance’ and ‘Revival’ are not only some of my favourite songs of last year (or this year because technically, the album did release physically in January 2017) but some of my favourite songs I’ve heard since tracks from for KING AND COUNTRY’s Run Wild, Live Free, Love Strong way back in 2014. That good, right? Yes!
‘Chain Breaker’ took off pretty well and is now widely praised and critically acclaimed for its power and emotion as the track gives us a reminder of the power that Christ has over the chains we often wear in our day to day lives, while “Old Church Choir” is very much gospel-tinged, as Zach places on this Kirk Franklin meets Third Day hat to deliver a song that’s a tad under 3 minutes, yet solid in a worship-country way, driven by acoustic guitars and hand claps. The song encourages us to hold onto the fact that if we are in Christ Jesus, there is nothing that can steal away our joy we have found through what He has done for us. “To The Table”, an acoustic and string filled melody, reminds us all that we are all welcome at the table of the Lord, that whatever we have, be it hurt, hope, triumph or trials, we can all lay it down on the table without condemnation or judgement; while “Revival” offers a personal touch, as Zach delivers what could seem like an autobiographical account of how God grabbed a hold of Zach’s heart and showed him what it means to be overcome by revival. ‘Song of Deliverance’, track 2 on the deluxe edition of Chain Breaker (preceded by ‘Promised Land’, a musically similar track that further expands upon Zach’s country musical undertones), shows us all what it looks like to be the most unique and out-of-the-box track on the album, sort of like if “Chains” by Crowder and “Highway” by August Rain had a mashup, and the two songs meshed together to form a new one. “Song of Deliverance” is an encouragement to all, as Zach powerfully declares that I will ‘…sing a song of deliverance, I will lift my hands and drop these chains, walk out free in Jesus’ name…’
Then there’s the new songs, the ones that take the album from 10 tracks to 15. First on the album is ‘Promised Land’, a new 1 minute track whose music is very much similar to ‘Song of Deliverance’ and reminds us all from the outset that we as Christians are going to the promised land, the one that has been set before us by the Lord most High, the place where everything will be made right, where there is no more hurt, sorrow and suffering. Though not even 2 minutes, this track sets the scene for not only the newer songs but the whole deluxe album and its themes, as Zach encourages us to declare and proclaim, that the promised land of the Lord may in fact be nearer than we think. ‘Home’ and ‘Freedom’ are two other brand new recordings from Zach, each being songs that could easily flourish on radio stations like Air1 or K-Love, while a song like ‘Washed Clean’, performed live, is a moment of realisation and surrender, acknowledging that it is only Jesus and He alone that can wash ourselves clean from all the pain, turmoil and unsaid things that can otherwise make us feel unlovable. But it is Zach’s cover of the Allman Brothers Band’s ‘Midnight Rider’ that is a standout for anyone who knows anything about country style music.
Taken exactly from Zach himself and what he has to say about what he thinks about ‘Midnight Rider’- In 2012, I was in one of the lowest places of my life, I found myself at a crossroads with a decision that would prove to be one of the hardest and most life-changing moments I have ever experienced. While touring through Europe with my former rock band, I was reading a book called My Cross to Bear, a story about Gregg Allman and his life on the road as the frontman for The Allman Brothers Band. I found myself much like him – soul-searching and in desperate need of a savior. A few days into reading the book, I heard the song ‘Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave come on the radio while scanning stations on the bus, and that is a moment I will never forget. I believe God speaks to us all in different ways. At a time in my life where I was searching for something better, He used a book about a band that I loved – The Allman Brothers Band – and a song from a band I’d never heard of at the time – Big Daddy Weave – to tell me that I am forgiven and that He loves me, just as I am. I pray Gregg found the same peace I did before he passed. He is an artist whose music has inspired me as a songwriter and influenced my soulful, southern style. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to play the song ‘Midnight Rider’ countless times while touring in my former band. Though a painful past with years of hard living are now far behind me, this song is a reminder of the places I’ve been and the man I have become. And it is in that same spirit that this song has a special meaning for Zach, and has hit home for me as well, knowing the story behind it. And while I myself find it a little tad difficult to hear country songs in general; ‘Midnight Rider’ though has a passion and an enthusiasm attached to it, as we’re reminded that everyone is on a journey, even ourselves. ‘Midnight Rider’ encourages us to be honest in our own struggles, and that each journey is encouraged by the Lord to be wholehearted and earnest, that every experience will be shaped by God to allow us to become much more resilient when trials come our way!
‘…I did the whole rock star thing for so long and I felt like I was always faking it, and now I really just want to be real with people. Please don’t wait another minute, make the decision today to follow Christ. I wished I would’ve done it 20 years ago. I wished I would’ve never gotten into drugs and alcohol and all that came with it. If you don’t know what you’re doing with your life then find a quiet place, fall down on your hands and knees, and ask God to come in and save your life. Surrender everything to Him. Jesus came and died on the cross so there would be a way for the chains of those struggles and addictions to be broken. If you have pain, He’s a pain taker, if you’re lost, He is the way maker, and if you’ve got chains, He’s the chain breaker. The first step is allowing Him to come in so He can set you free…’ Zach Williams’ deluxe edition full-length effort under Provident Label Group as a Christian artist is nothing short of unique, powerful and impacting as this album becomes one of the most enjoyable and heartfelt I have heard ever since Tenth Avenue North’s Followers way back in October last year. While Zach may not be as popular as any other Christian artist that is popular today, what Zach does have is raw honesty and heart. This album is real, and each track I’m sure will speak to different people on different levels. And to say that “Chain Breaker” never made it on my list of three songs from the album that are must-listens, it says the calibre of Zach and his music. An album that’ll continuously be on repeat for the next few months, Zach ought to be commended for a fine effort on a project certain to be enjoyed by anyone who loves Christian music, country music or both!
4 songs to listen to: Old Church Choir, Survivor, Home, Freedom
RIYL: needtobreathe, Rhett Walker Band, Switchfoot, Lifehouse, Third Day, U2