Release Date: April 22nd 2022
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Prelude (Scatter)
- My Jesus
- Sunday Sermons
- Hey Girl
- This House
- Mamas (feat. Hillary Scott)
- No Place Like Home
- God Thing
- That’s What We Need
- Something About That Name
- Closer To God
- My Jesus (feat. Crowder)
Anne Wilson has been on a rollercoaster ride of late. Since bursting onto the CCM scene with her chart-topping 2021 single ‘My Jesus’ (released in 2021 as a three-song single together with ‘Devil’ and ‘Something About That Name’), Capitol CMG’s newest signee has been on the road to new heights. Anne’s ability to inject a sense of Christian/country into CCM is something to be proud of (as listeners)- while we’ve seen chart-topping CCM artists and country artists in years gone by, I don’t think I’ve really seen a country/CCM artist that’s been able to utilise their gifts in country music, to create songs that have highly resonated in CCM. I mean sure, Carrie Underwood is indeed a Christian, but her primary ministry is within the country music sphere. Same with artists like Reba, Scotty McCreery, Dolly Parton, Randy Travis, Kenny Rogers, Hillary Scott and Lady A, Ricky Skaggs, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, and Kris Kristofferson. And yet we’ve seen all these aforementioned artists release songs throughout their career that have expressed their Christian faith. But it’s only very recently that we see artists embracing their country roots and crafting their career within CCM, but still utilising what they’ve learnt in their life to create songs that can thrive on not only CCM but on country radio if the opportunity arose.
Artists like Mallary Hope, Steven Curtis Chapman (recently he’s delved into bluegrass and folk with his album Where the Bluegrass Grows), Danny Gokey (earlier on during his career), Whosoever South, Rhett Walker Band, Crowder, CAIN and now Anne Wilson, who have created music that could easily succeed in both markets, while still providing a grounding message that focuses on the faith of said artist, and their own struggles, joys, celebrations, and triumphs in their lives thus far. Anne Wilson is the most recent (on a list of many) artist to embody both CCM and country music, and so far, it’s worked. Since her burst into both CCM & country music, we’ve been given songs like ‘My Jesus’, ‘Devil’, ‘Something About That Name’, alongside a live rendition of new song ‘No Place Like Home’. She recorded her own version of Little Big Town’s ‘Boondocks’, while also delivering her powerful most recent single ‘Sunday Sermons’ (one my all-time favourite songs of 2022 thus far), as well as original Christmas songs ‘I Still Believe in Christmas’, ‘Kentucky Fried Christmas’ and ‘Just Because It’s Christmas’.
Now as we venture into April 2022; we see Anne deliver one of my favourite albums of the year thus far- her debut album, My Jesus. It’s an album that’s certain to succeed within CCM, and maybe even within country music, if that were to be the case. One of my favourites alongside new albums from Kiefer Sutherland, Mandy Harvey, Casting Crowns and The Shires; Anne has given us 14 (15 if you include the two versions of ‘My Jesus’ on the album) songs of hope, joy and peace, giving us assurance and comfort that it’s ok for two musical genres to come together, collide and thrive, in the same time and space. Chris Tomlin recently attempted to try and marry both CCM and country together on his 2020 album Chris Tomlin & Friends, but I think this new album from Anne hits the nail on the head. With songs like ‘My Jesus’, ‘Sunday Sermons’ and more recent track ‘No Place Like Home’ anchoring the album musically and stylistically; My Jesus is an album that’s a must-have if you enjoy artists with similar country sounds like Taylor Swift, Lady A and Martina McBride, CCM artists like Crowder, Third Day, Matthew West, or Casting Crowns; or both.
Released as a single in 2021, ‘My Jesus’ recently earned a nomination for the Top Christian Song at the Billboard Music Awards, and what a deserving nomination it is. Anne’s catchy earworm hits all the right notes, as this toe-tapping feet-stomping joyous country/CCM track is about as emotive and compelling as any other, and arguably my favourite to have come from CCM/country, ever since ‘Chain Breaker’ by Zach Williams. The song has really taken off; and has become an anthem to many around the world, just like how ‘Chain Breaker’ was way back then. A song that has a really personal element to it, it’s the ability of country to take a song and really deliver some personality to it, that has someone revitalised CCM, through artists like Zach and Anne, and even others like Crowder, We the Kingdom, Rhett Walker, Third Day and Mallary Hope. And ‘My Jesus’ has done exactly that. As Anne shares the story behind the song, we see the richness in these lyrics, and how a song like ‘My Jesus’, borne out of something so personal for Anne, can have an impact as big as it has had in CCM (and country) thus far- ‘…I know that every time I release a song, it’s going to reach people that don’t know God. Especially that more and more as I’m singing songs that sound country but have the lyrical content of a Christian song. These songs have a lot of potential to reach people that maybe don’t even know Christian music and that haven’t heard of the name of Jesus. I just love to give people an encouraging message through songs that glorify the Lord and that help people believe and come to Jesus. So, that’s definitely a passion of mine. I think it’s really cool how music is really powerful, and it was created by God and it’s something we can all have. Even people that don’t know the Lord obviously experience music on a very deep level. To be able to write songs that hopefully encourage other people that don’t know the Lord, is something that I love to do…I’ve had a lot of really incredible responses to that song [My Jesus]. The ones that stand out are really stories of people saying they lost a loved one years ago, and that they turned away from the Lord and that they resented God. They were angry at Him, and when this song came out, they all of a sudden let go of their anger towards the Lord. I think there’s something really hard about losing a loved one. I lost my brother in a car accident, and that’s how that song came about. When you lose a loved one, you have to learn how to trust God. This song, “My Jesus,” is encouraging people to do that. It’s just a really powerful thing for me. [My brother who inspired the song] was older. He was 23. He had a car accident in 2017. It was so tragic. He was my best friend. That’s actually how I started singing and how I got into music and that’s why I wrote the song “My Jesus.”…’ It is in this quote that I’ve come to appreciate Anne’s music as a whole, and the song ‘My Jesus’ in particular is a big part in that. Released on this album as a solo track as well as a duet with fellow CCM/country artist Crowder; ‘My Jesus’ is a great, powerful melody, that’s certain to become a classic song in years, and maybe even decades, to come.
Also released on the My Jesus Single last year are the songs ‘Devil’ and ‘Something About That Name’- my brother reviewed these songs along with ‘My Jesus’ last year, but what I will say about these two songs is this. ‘Devil’ reminds me of something Crowder would undertake (in all the good, possible ways) as we see the song itself remind us of the limited power the devil actually has, that the finished work of Christ ‘…brought life to me and death to the devil…’, while the emotive and compelling ‘Something About That Name’ is a potential radio single in the future, reminding us all of how ‘…there is something about the name of Jesus, it sounds like forgiveness, sounds like amazing grace, it beckons my soul to sing forever, there’s just something about that name…’ Anne also released ‘Sunday Sermons’ early this year as well- the album’s official second radio single, and an all-round great song about the impact the sermons on a Sunday morning, all throughout Anne’s youth, has impacted her walk with Christ, today. ‘Sunday Sermons’ is a reminder to each of us to never underestimate how crucial and significant Sunday sermons are in someone’s life. Sometimes we think that someone’s faith hinges on a big spiritual moment, or with a time where they realise all the things that they’ve done wrong, and then they fall on their face, crying of Jesus. Yes, there are those big transformations a la Paul, and people do recall their ‘born again’ birthday, where they pinpoint a date when they surrender fully to Christ; but sometimes God doesn’t work that way. Sometimes there isn’t an actual time when the Lord works on your heart. Maybe it’s through years and years of listening to Sunday sermons. Maybe God chips away at your heart for a long period of time, and you grow in Christ that way. Maybe growing up in a Christian home solidifies people’s faith more than we think. Maybe, just maybe, God can use even the most inconspicuous Sunday sermon to allow ourselves to see what He wants us to see, about ourselves, Himself, others. ‘Sunday Sermons’ the song is a reminder that we must not place tremendous importance on the big moment in someone’s life, that just because someone has a ‘wow’ moment and they come to Christ in a profound way, doesn’t mean that someone else’s experience of growing up in a Chrsitian home and becoming a Christian that way, is anything less than valid. ‘Sunday Sermons’ places importance in the everyday, and that what was maybe assumedly something that people would’ve glossed over, could now be one of the things that firm up someone’s faith, especially someone who’s been listening to sermons for years and years.
‘…I’m so excited to share ‘Sunday Sermons’ with the world. This is my story of growing up in the church since I was a little girl. God used every Sunday sermon to develop a firm foundation in Him. I didn’t realize just how deep my roots were in Him from all those years of showing up to church each Sunday until I encountered hardships in my life. No matter what happens in life – even losing a loved one, I can always go back to that foundation of truth that the Lord planted in me through each of those sermons. This song is to remind you to cling to the One who’s consistent and faithful. Jesus loves you more than you could ever imagine…’
Throughout the rest of the album, we see how really gifted this young up-and-coming country artist really is, as a lot of these songs are delivered with fervent honesty and passion, something that, regrettably, isn’t seen as much currently within CCM of today. Nevertheless, just like how ‘My Jesus’ made a big splash sonically and lyrically last year, so too do a lot of these songs on this album, in my opinion. The album starts off with a country-rock head banger ‘Scatter’, a song that could have been attributed to artists like Crowder, Colton Dixon or even Skillet, in another life. A song that is musically explosive from the get-go, this gothic-country melody declares the devil to flee, as we hear in the chorus, that ‘…my praise gonna shake these rockers, these walls gonna fall like Jericho, stand back, watch the enemies scatter, scatter, hands high like the fight gon’ let up, there’s a victory I already know, stand back, watch the enemies scatter, scatter…’ It’s a song that declares it’s intentions early, and a great reminder to each of us to make bold proclamations for our own faith; and believe wholeheartedly that when we declare the name and love of Christ, our enemies have no choice but scatter and obey the word of the Lord.
‘Hey Girl’ is an anthem for girls everywhere as the track reminds each of us, especially girls, about who they are and their identity in Christ. Identity these days seem to be very crucial to people living in a messed-up world, where identity politics seem to be commonplace wherever people go. There seems to be a lack of understanding of who we are in a society that relativises almost everything, so it’s good and refreshing to hear a song that really stamps upon who girls are, and who we are as Christians. It’s a song that reminds me of the old hymn ‘Overcoming Child of God’, a song popularised by singer-songwriter Carman around 20 years ago. That song there spoke boldly about who we are in Christ, and so too has Anne undertaken in this new song as well- that ‘…I’m a blood-bought, battle-fought, all my shame long gone, made-new child of the King, I’m an amen, testify, holy water baptized, went down and came up clean, I’m a soul been saved by that amazing grace, and now there ain’t no way, girl, can’t take that away, girl, don’t forget you’re free, it’s who you’re made to be, hey, girl…’ ‘This House’ follows along from ‘Hey Girl’ and shows us of the essential nature of the foundation of the word of the Lord. We can have all the outward looking of how a foundation is, we can seemingly appear to have all the right things, but if we don’t stand on the house of the Lord and make that our central thing we trust in, then the houses we build, physical and proverbial, will fall as a result; while ‘Mansions’ harkens back to something that would’ve been recorded straight out of the 2000s. In this song, we see this theme of having ‘mansions’ after us after we die- in effect, the song is about our expectations of what heaven could be like, being blown out of the water once we get there. Heaven is so much more than we can even fathom, and though this song is very hyperbolic, it doesn’t negate the fact that whatever ‘mansion’ we have in heaven, will be grander than we can ever comprehend.
‘Mamas’, a duet with Lady A frontwoman Hillary Scott, follows along from that, and if played right, could be a great hit on country radio- the song is about the reasons why we need our mama’s in our lives, that God made mamas ‘…for the open arms to fall into, for the when you don’t know what to do, for the phone call sayin’, “Don’t forget, I’m always in your corner”, for the heart that makes a house a home, for the knowing that you’re not alone, for the “Darling, don’t you dare give up even when you wanna”, yeah, that’s why God made mamas…’ ‘No Place Like Home’, originally recorded in a live setting on a previous live EP released last year, is here again as a studio recording, and doesn’t shy too much away from the original live counterpart. The song itself delves into Anne’s own feelings about her brother’s death, and how someone’s absence in someone’s life (through their untimely death) can have such an impact on them, emotionally, physically, maybe even spiritually. ‘No Place Like Home’ shows us how much Anne misses her brother, and how much she understands that as much as shey may want her brother back again, there’s no place like home (i.e.: heaven). ‘God Thing’, another upbeat track on the album (as well as another pre-release track that was unveiled prior to the album release date), shows us of how some things in life are just ‘god things’- moments that cannot be explained by mere reason, but some thing that God intervenes (or even uses) for His glory and our good. Luck and coincidence aren’t there in the universe of God- and what we call as such, are in fact God things that we may take for granted, more often than we care to admit.
‘That’s What We Need’ utilises the ukulele as the primary instrument in a song that tries to remind us of what we need in a life that can be so disheartening and polarising. As Anne reminds us, ‘…maybe there’s a bigger picture we’ve been missing, something different, ain’t talkin’ ’bout a Sunday only, actin’ holy, easy kinda faith, ain’t talkin’ ’bout a barely going, through the motions, empty kinda praise, I’m talkin’ ’bout a heart that looks likе Jesus, like His hands, like His feet, thеre’s one way, one truth, one life, that sets us free, that’s what we need…’ Anne continues on with the songs ‘Something About That Name’ and ‘Closer to God’- the former is a track that reminds us of how there’s something about the power of Jesus’s name, that the God we serve and the name of Him we declare from our mouths, has the power to do things we may not perceive possible, while the latter is a declaratory statement Anne delivers over herself as we see that in every circumstance, triumph and even tragedy, God uses to bring us closer to Himself, even if we don’t see it in the moment. The album ends with the duet version of ‘My Jesus’ with the addition of Crowder, and while the add-on of ‘My Jesus’ unfortunately detracts a little from the poignancy and impactfulness of ‘Closer to God’; ending the album with ‘My Jesus’ is seemingly fitting- with the song becoming one of CCM’s most impactful radio hits of 2021, it’s nice to have a veteran like Crowder on a song such as this.
So here you have it…My Jesus the album. 15 tracks long. A couple of songs probably too long (maybe the ‘My Jesus’ duet wasn’t necessarily needed on the track list), but nevertheless, a very, very good debut. Never have I been this excited about a new CCM artist since artists like Cory Asbury, Lauren Daigle and Zach Williams; and that is saying something…a lot. Anne has given her all to this project, and it is virtually come off successfully and seamlessly. Her ability to deliver her music that can be appreciated by lovers of both CCM, and country music is most definitely something that we need to be in awe of- because frankly, the more people that utilises their God-given gifts in a variety of genres; and go outside of the ‘box’ (CCM) to share their faith (country, or any other genre), the better. An artist destined to have a bright and God-breathed career in the upcoming years to come, this debut project is any artist’s dream start to a hopefully long career, inspiring and encouraging people with Christian country music, a ‘genre’ that is rare, but nevertheless growing. Well done Anne for this stellar album. Looking forward to what God has in store in the upcoming weeks and months ahead.
4 songs to listen to: My Jesus, Sunday Sermons, No Place Like Home, Something About That Name
RIYL: Zach Williams, Crowder, Third Day, Casting Crowns, Lady A, Carly Pearce