Provident Label Group
Release Date: May 20th 2022
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- State of the Union
- Hell or High Water
- Miracle of the Mind
- Light on the Mountain
- Our Jesus
- Where the War Ends
- All That I’ve Ever Wanted
- While We Wait
Worship music has been evolving at an exponential pace over the past few years. Overall, it’s been my favourite genre ever of Christian music, if you could call it a genre at all (as worship is a lifestyle, but that’s for a later discussion…); while worship music has had its critics and fair share of issues, if the video debate of Ruslan and Allen Parr is to be believed. Artists such as Meredith Andrews, Kari Jobe, Phil Wickham, Cody Carnes, I Am They, Hillsong Worship, Bethel Music, Elevation Worship and Passion, have all risen in popularity and prowess musically, giving glory to God as they vertically and overtly sing praises to Him. Yet on the other side of the coin are artists who create such beautiful music lyrically, sometimes praising God, as there are themes of worship overtly or covertly embedded. Yet these songs also sometimes speak about life- and the artists also aim to record music for all kinds of people. Artists in this vein include Johnnyswim, Sara Groves, Andrew Peterson, Switchfoot, Jars of Clay, Leigh Nash, Lifehouse, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, Tori Kelly, Lauren Daigle, Colony House, Ben Rector, Mat Kearney, The Gray Havens and Needtobreathe. Yet what happens when you mould worship music together with music meant to be recorded as art and viewed from many different lenses? Music from both ‘genres’ if you will? Well, look no further than Amanda Cook. A recent signing to Provident Label Group; Amanda’s latest multifaceted project State Of The Union, produced by Jason Ingram and Paul Mabury, the duo known as One Sonic Society; released a couple of months ago. We already reviewed her debut album Brave New World; while her second album House On A Hill wasn’t reviewed by this site unfortunately! Already a member of the Bethel Music worship team, Amanda is no stranger to recording solo albums, having already recorded independent records as Amanda Falk; yet with her Provident Label Group debut album- her third overall… let’s dive in to see how this album fared against others, and why Amanda definitely is an artist to look out for in 2022 and beyond!
State of the Union looks at where we intersect with God, with each other, and with ourselves. It’s about relationship and healing the way that I relate to everything. We can’t control or manipulate anything that happens out there, the only things we can control are our thoughts and what’s in our hearts. The fact that we get to bring our thoughts to the Christ-mind is incredible. Sometimes I forget how kind he really is, and that we can sit in His love and compassion.
State of the Union was written from an animated, reimagined place of trust and love, within my faith tradition as a follower of Jesus. This body of work explores the relationships we carry around in our hearts – with God, with the world, each other, our own selves. It’s an exploration of love, the kind that keeps loving unto and past death. The kind that stays.
Already, a glance through the track list piques my interest, mainly due to the previously released promotional singles. One of these is the album closer “While We Wait”. A contemplative, reflective and powerful piano ballad, Amanda prayerfully and earnestly relays to us that Jesus Christ is with us all the time, especially while we wait in the midst of a tumultuous season. As Amanda fervently brings forth the topic of uncertainty, and wondering where God is when things in our lives go wrong, we are met with the assurance that ‘…there’s a peace for our anxiety, a comfort for our suffering, and a healing we have yet to see…You’re here in the center of all hopelessness, when little of our faith is left, You’re lifting up our weary heads, You’re here in the tension of the life that was, the here and now, the yet to come, and through it all Your promise stands…’. Similarly, “Miracle Of The Mind” is another pre-order/promotional single, and is a piano ballad that encourages, comforts, confronts and inspires. With Amanda shining a light upon the taboo concept of mental health, Amanda also relays to us all that with Jesus Christ by our side, He alone can cure and heal us all from our mental battles and our mental issues- He alone can create a ‘miracle in the mind’.
Throughout the eleven-track album, Amanda’s heart for Jesus cannot be denied, as she worships wholeheartedly and delves into a wide array of issues. Album opener and title track “State Of The Union” is a cheerful acoustic guitar led instrumental track, which sets the tone for the album- a hopeful, celebratory atmosphere; while “Hell Or High Water” is a compelling and emphatic piano led ballad, and a declaration of Amanda’s unwavering dedication and commitment to Jesus Christ at all times. Spanning almost 6 minutes in duration, Amanda also subtly alludes to the title of the song ‘hell of high water’, in which Amanda infers that she will stand by Jesus even in the tough times. “Light On The Mountain”, an assertion and a heartfelt declaration that Jesus Christ is ‘…the light on the mountain, when my thoughts can’t find their way, You catch my attention, like the sun streaming down on my face, You’re the wind in the forest, telling me I’m not alone, You’re a clear sky and compass, leading me all the way home…’, is in my opinion the pinnacle of the album- as Amanda delivers a musically simple yet lyrically profound and thought-provoking melody which essentially relays that Jesus Christ is the only thing that is worth chasing and worth pursuing in this life. While “Honestly” peels back the layers of vulnerability and authenticity, with Amanda highlighting that she is honestly tired, weary, and empty- however with Jesus, she is ‘…held, I’m healed, I am at home, here at Your feet, I’m filled, I’m found where I belong…’.
“Our Jesus”, a powerful worshipful anthem, speaks about Jesus’ sacrifice for us all on the cross- and could easily be a ‘Good Friday melody’, a song fit to sing on Good Friday; while the mellow yet much needed ballad “Time” speaks about letting go of grudges, forgiving people who wronged you, forgiving yourself for something that was out of your own control, and instead moving forward in the knowledge that you can’t change the things you can’t control, but you can accept things in your life and can rest in the knowledge that Jesus has our plans in the palm of His hand. “Where The War Ends”, one of the only musically energetic ‘poppy’ melodies, speaks about surrendering control and surrendering our life to Jesus, and relaying the fact that once we do, the war in our mind can end because Jesus has everything under control; while Amanda inspires us to not try so hard, and to bask more in the presence of Jesus.
“All That I’ve Ever Wanted”, the longest song on the album at 6 and a half minutes, is a heart-warming and optimistic melody with Amanda earnestly crying out that Jesus is all that she has ever wanted, that ‘…all the other wells they run dry, other lovers never satisfy, that empty aching longing inside, it was for You and only You the whole time…’; while the final song from State Of The Union (aside from the single “While We Wait”) is “Edens”. A song for the skeptics, for the doubters, for the people with questions and with people who are seemingly rock solid in their faith; Amanda powerfully and passionately reiterates to us all that Jesus Christ is big enough to handle our questions and is big enough to handle us ‘deconstructing’. A song that is sure to promote discussion, Amanda emphatically concludes that ‘…You are here, closer than the heart in my chest, truer than the thoughts in my head, even in the shadow of death, I know You’re with me, here, catching my tears in Your hands, lifting my head when I can’t, redeeming in seconds the life I thought was wasted, You make Edеns out of wastelands…’. A stellar melody and one of the standouts, Amanda beautifully and skilfully creates a masterpiece and a powerful and touching album full of hope and optimism.
Amanda Cook’s State Of The Union is an album to be listened to over and over again, as I am positive and certain that every time we listen to this complex and intricate album, something different will be gained from the hour long plus experience. Particularly with standout songs like “Hell Or High Water”, “Time” and “Edens”; Amanda has created something special here, and let’s hope and pray that the next album lives up to the expectations placed because of the greatness of this particular project. Well done Amanda, I hope and pray that State Of The Union is recognised by album critics, or at least changes the lives of the many people who will listen to it! A brilliant album for a well-respected singer songwriter and worship leader! Amanda Cook should be proud of herself! A must buy on iTunes!
3 songs to listen to: Hell Or High Water, Time, Edens
RIYL: Kari Jobe, Jesus Culture, Meredith Andrews, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes