Provident Label Group
Release Date: May 12th 2023
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
Amanda Cook– Survey Pt. 1 EP (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
- New King
- There’s Nothing
- Only One Worthy
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. One of the many signings to Provident Label Group; Amanda’s latest EP Survey Pt 1, is the follow up to the powerful and moving album State Of The Union (produced by Jason Ingram and Paul Mabury). 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; and yet with her Provident Label Group debut EP… let’s dive in to see how this album fared against others, and why Amanda definitely is an artist to look out for in 2023 and beyond!
I’m in Alabama. I didn’t sleep. I took a strong allergy medicine, like the grown up stuff last night and even though the pharmacist warned me that it could keep me up at night I decided “maybe for other people but not for me” like a right moron and took it at 9PM. 12 hours later it was still going strong. Maybe I will listen to experts next time. The good news is the allergies are sleeping like a tired puppy in the corner all tired from chewing all the shoes and furniture.
It’s release week for the first song in this new body of work and my ego and I went for a run this morning to move through some of the thoughts and feelings that come up whenever I put music out there in the big wild world.
what does that say about the time and energy it cost to make it,
does it make it less valuable if it’s not appreciated,
who decides if art is good…..”
Then there are the religious thoughts,
“it’ll probably be too religious for some of my friends,
and I am also entirely not religious enough for others.
Mert. Ugh. Geez. Can’t breathe. Maybe it’s the treadmill.”
All these thoughts and feelings, but then there’s this other thing, this great big feeling that drowns out the rest. It’s about what this project of music is about, this person, this God person, Jesus. A perplexing individual. I have yet to find anything about Him that’s not congruent, balanced, integrated, complete. He’s just so friendly, so warm, so true, so steady, so stable. He also flips tables in my heart and like a siren He brings me back to my senses when I resort to the old ways, the rhetoric and unconscious responses, the ones born out of fear and scarcity and religious world views that have yet to be redeemed. He repeatedly goes to the end of the world with me so I would know that I am worth the sacrifice that Love makes.
I wish for the whole world to know This Jesus, the one that’s not afraid or offended or put off by our scrappy, sacrilegious selves. He’s got a great sense of humor and I know this cause He laughs at my jokes. He’s patient, kind, good, gentle, self restrained, He’s the One who introduced us to the possibility of relating to God as a healthy, attentive Parent, a good Father, say what, and welcomed us home to our belonging in the Divine Family. He’s the One that’s spacious for all of us and our little interpretations of Him. I feel like the woman at the well in that Book that had a chat with this God Guy and went to tell the whole town about what happened in her soul during their conversation. “Like, you guys, I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just that something is different, I feel free.”
Perhaps I could end this ‘review’ here, with the above quote of Amanda’s musings of what this EP means to her. Perhaps I’ll let you listen to this EP (which isn’t your traditional worship EP, mind you!) and let you all make up your minds. Maybe I will. On a musically risky and creative EP, of which I reckon I’m completely underqualified and out of my depth; I’d say sometimes writing something shorter is better. And so… I may just leave it to all of you to decide on this batch of 5 worship-adjacent songs. But can I just say first… that Amanda is one of the most lyrically engaging and thought-provoking artists I’ve heard recently? The EP opener “New King” is an explosive, rock/spoken word/experimental piece of art, which works on every level, and has Amanda conveying the name of Jesus and shouting the name of the King of Kings with reckless abandon and unspeakable joy; while “Found” is a simple worship song that highlights the fact that everything we’ve been searching for has been with us all along- it’s Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. “There’s Nothing”, a subdued, reflective, and contemplative ballad, ardently and fervently relays the real truth of how there’s nothing ever in this world that can separate us from Jesus Christ; while the penultimate track on Survey Pt 1 is “Rest”, a song the directs us to ‘…bring your burdens all to Jesus, there’s nothing too big for Him, and He’s never too busy for you, tell your troubles all to Jesus…all you weary, come and lay your head, on His shoulders, if your heart is heavy, take a rest by still waters…’. The EP then ends with “Only One Worthy”, the most fitting way to end this EP, as Amanda vividly describes how Jesus made us sons and daughters and how He made us worthy- by dying on the cross and then rising from the dead all because of his infinite love for each of us.
I love the idea of surveying the landscape of one’s life, ideas of God, emotions, faith, hopes, disasters, fears, joys, the list goes on and on. There’s such a beauty to the humility that comes with embracing our humanity, our limitations, our smallness in the grand scheme of things, with curiosity. I hope that this music becomes a companion to your own curiosity, your own long walks, and ventures into the soul of our own being.
Amanda Cook’s Survey Pt 1 is an EP to be listened to over and over again, as I am positive and certain that every time we listen to this complex and intricate project, something different will be gained from the hour long plus experience. Amanda has created something special here once again, and let’s hope and pray that the next project lives up to the expectations placed because of the greatness of this particular release. Well done, Amanda, I hope and pray that Survey Pt 1 EP is recognised by album critics, or at least changes the lives of the many people who will listen to it! A brilliant release 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: Found, There’s Nothing, Only One Worthy
RIYL: Kari Jobe, Jesus Culture, Meredith Andrews, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes