Red Street Records
Release Date: May 20th 2022
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- We Glorify Your Name
- Graves Into Gardens
- You Deserve It All
- Christ Be Magnified
- The Blessing
- So It Will Be
- What We’re Here For
What can you say, and what do you actually say about a band who has had all the hits, all of the accolades, that has toured the globe, that has done everything they could possibly do to further the kingdom of God? What do you say about a band with smash hits such as “Can’t Live A Day”, “In Not Of”, “Wonder Why”, “Undeniably You”, “You Were There”, “I Wanna Be With You”, “Adonai”, “Love Won’t Leave You”, “Still My God”, “I Don’t Wanna Go” and “Testify To Love” (to name a few)? What do you really say about the band that has already been given praises and awards? Avalon (now known as Avalon Worship) has been around since the 90’s, has had plenty of member changes (see Wikipedia), yet has still forged on and created songs of praise to God, that are heartfelt, honest and personal, yet relevant and inspiring also. Yet to each of our confusion, and completely out of left field in 2009, these guys dropped of the CCM scene. Sure, they still toured and lead worship at each of their individual churches, but since 2009’s Reborn, these guys were conspicuously absent from the CCM scene. Until now. In 2020, the inspirational quartet unveiled their brand new album Called (reviewed here!), including their hit single “Keeper Of My Heart”, via Red Street Records (Rascal Flatts’ guitarist Jay DeMarcus’s new label!). And while we have been encouraged and uplifted in the past, the question I posed in the review was this- how did their sound, well…sound like, compared to all of the bands that have started their careers and are at the height of their popularity all the while Avalon was on hiatus? Was the lead single “Keeper Of My Heart” relevant or was it dated and not needed? Is new member Dani Rocca-Herbert loved and appreciated by fans, and has long-time member Jody McBrayer made a successful and welcome return from his hiatus? Well in my opinion, all of these answers can be read in my review of Called, and not much more needs to be said about this album, not much because it seems like no time has passed at all, definitely a good thing. Called is like the Avalon of old. Containing ballads as well as upbeat pop tunes, this album is certainly one for the nostalgic fans, and also for those who are hearing about Avalon for the first time. It was one of my favourite albums of 2020… and so we come to 2022. Avalon has rebranded with a new name, and has now released a new album, titled Avalon Worship.
For the past eleven years Greg and I have been staff worship leaders at a local church north of Houston. Jody’s also a staff worship leader at a church in Ohio. Dani became a worship leader right out of high school. Leading worship has been a natural progression in our personal lives, so it made sense to extend that into our recording world. We’re all personally in a place where we need the connection only genuine worship can bring. There’s real healing and safety in the presence of God. These songs are where we are as adults and as Christians and believers.
Can I say from the outset that my opinion of worship albums in general is a bit of a mixed bag? When you’re not considered firstly and foremostly as a worship band, to record a worship album , even if it comes from a place of earnestness and honesty and vulnerability- sometimes it doesn’t sound the greatest, particularly if it’s not your ‘natural style’. Case in point it Jeremy Camp’s We Cry Out from 2010. It was an enjoyable album for me, but I feel Jeremy’s voice is more suited to pop/rock with an alternative edge to it. For Avalon though (it’s hard to think of them as Avalon Worship!), their ‘Avalon sound’ works well with songs being sung to Jesus- it’s one of the most natural sounding things in the whole world! Opening with the original melody “We Glorify Your Name”, the energetic, joyous and celebratory Steve Fee-penned melody, is led by Jody McBrayer and Greg Long, and is a simply yet effective inspiring melody, whereby God is lifted on high and is given the glory and honour. As the quartet eloquently and passionately relay that ‘…for goodness and mercy, for grace underserving, we glorify Your name, we glorify Your name, in sorrow and weakness, You hold us and keep us, forever You remain, we glorify Your name oh God…’, we are presented with a song that may not be popular when compared to the massive worship songs from Hillsong, Elevation Worship or Bethel Music, yet still is a song that lyrically and musically stands tall amongst them in my opinion. It’s a song that is perfect as the opener and a song that is one of my favourites this year- so kudos to Janna, Greg, Dani and Jody for delivering a worthy worship melody for us all to sing to our Father, Friend and Saviour?
The rest of Avalon Worship is full of covers and originals, and the album overall is a beautiful invitation to bask in the presence of the Holy Spirit, as we worship our God, our Lord and our King. “Graves Into Gardens” is given the ‘Avalon’ treatment and is exquisitely and profoundly sung by Jody (I do enjoy the original more, but this rendition is a close second!); while the original melody “You Deserve It All”, a piano led melody led by Janna and Jody, essentially relays to God that He alone is deserving of our worship, our devotion, our entire being, and our time and money. And as brilliantly conveyed by Jody: It’s a stunning song that encompasses what worship is all about. We were created to worship. Every weekend I drive from Nashville to Cincinnati where I serve at a local church there. Sometimes when it’s time to leave I think, ‘I don’t want to go do this.’ But this song, every time I hear it, I’m reminded this opportunity is afforded by God and I have a chance to give it back to Him. He deserves that back in praise. It’s a simple yet unashamed, reverent, reflective, and sublime track that should be sung at churches everywhere; and Avalon deserve all of the credit and kudo here for making this melody known to the public. “Christ Be Magnified”, “Rattle” and “The Blessing” are songs that are all well-known (and don’t need to be expounded upon really, because you can read about these songs here, here and here!), and Avalon delivers each with professionalism, vulnerability, emotion, and pure unaltered love and worship to our Lord Jesus Christ; while to me the standout track on this album is “So It Will Ever Be”, a melody that proclaims Jesus’s sovereignty, and the fact that He is God and that He won’t ever change, despite man’s longing and desire to twist God into man’s image. As the band relay to us all, we cannot change who God is, and we cannot mould Him into our own selfish purposes- and the sooner we can accept this fact, the much freer we will live, knowing that Jesus Christ has a plan and we can trust that it will be beneficial for us in the end even when we do not understand: It’s not an easy word to accept, sovereignty. Especially when things aren’t going your way. Resting in His sovereignty is not always easy, but it’s always right. You cannot deny the sovereignty of God. He is going to be that forever. We can rewrite that to make ourselves feel better, we can try to manipulate the Gospel, manipulate who God is, but He will always be who He is. His narrative is forever. His sovereignty is forever.
“What We’re Here For”, a mid-tempo ballad, brings the heart of the matter back to worship, as we remember that what we’re really here for as believers on this earth, is to make Jesus’ name renown, and what we’re also here for, is to worship Jesus and to lift up His name so that He can receive all the glory, honour, power, and praise. “Satisfy”, the lone ‘poppy’ melody, is lead by Dani, and powerfully and compellingly outlines that Jesus alone is the only thing on earth that could ever truly satisfy us and can give us peace and contentment; while “Tremble”, originally recorded by Mosaic MSC, is a song that has blown up in the CCM/worship scene, and is recorded near-flawlessly by the group. Avalon Worship then ends with the revealing, moving, inspiring and impacting piano ballad “Here”- essentially a prayer asking Jesus to actively show us His presence with us in a tangible way. It’s a song that we can all pray, and a melody that reminds us that Jesus is with us, even if we can’t feel it: That line, ‘we’re fine to come here empty, as long as we leave with you,’ came from the writer’s room. It was one of those days. I’d flown in from Houston to Nashville and had several writing appointments. I got in the room with Don and Dave and said, well, any ideas? We were empty. I said, we need Him here with us. Let’s stop and pray. So we did, we asked the Lord to be in the room and He was. When He shows up, everything changes. And we’re so glad.
What is next for our awesome foursome? For Avalon Worship– Janna, Greg, Jody and Dani? Well, I’m not sure. The release of their new worship album Avalon Worship is very welcome, and probably later on there would be some touring. Or maybe these guys will continue to worship lead at their home churches, and record albums on the side. And as such, where people rely now more on multiple streams on income, and multiple ways to be influential in the world; where Avalon Worship goes now is anybody’s guess. Until such a time as the next project is unveiled (another Christmas album maybe?), we can listen to Called, Avalon Worship and the rest of their hits many times over. And then we can go back and revisit all of their greatest hits. So well done guys for your return to CCM and your seamless transition into worship music, we have all missed you! So please, as I’ve mentioned many times- don’t leave the CCM industry ever again!
3 songs to listen to: You Deserve It All, So It Will Be, Here
RIYL: Jason Crabb, FFH, Nicole C. Mullen, Point Of Grace, Natalie Grant, Bebo Norman