Made To Thrive Records
Release Date: April 15th 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- Follow Me
- I’m Gonna Marry Him
- Star in the Sky
“…People talk about what they are passionate about. Songwriters write what they are passionate about. I’m a folk singer. I tell stories. I pray people will chew on these words and think and think…” One of the newer artists that I have discovered from the recommendation of another artist on social media; Beth Hazel Farris, who released her new EP titled EP No. 1 in April this year, and worked with Jason Hoard as producer; is one of this year’s independent artists to look out for. That’s not because her songs cover a wide expanse of genres nor is it because Mark Hall from Casting Crowns endorsed her songs. Nor is it because Beth was the sole writer of the song “Follow Me” made famous by Casting Crowns. Nor is it… who am I kidding? All of these factors played a role in me liking these 4 honest and poignant tracks, yet objectively this mini-albums is great too. A stay at home mother, and a pastor’s wife, Beth and her family reside in New Orleans, and it is her courage and passion to sing from her heart that draws me into these vulnerable and personal tunes. With many musical influences including country, folk, and bluegrass; we are met with an artist that is not afraid to share the gospel; an artist who wears her heart on her sleeve. Recently opening for Casting Crowns on their Acoustic Tour in 2013, Beth’s hope to deliver songs with a clear and positive message, one of comfort, and reaching many audiences, yet always putting God at the centre, and that is truly admirable. From the first acoustic guitar note of “Follow Me” to the last electric guitar strum of the folk like “Star in the Sky”; this album is certain to be enjoyed by lovers of folk and acoustic music
With a smorgasbord of topics being sung about in this taster, from the joys of motherhood, and love and relationships, to undeserving grace, thankfulness and gratitude; the album opens up with “Follow Me”, the most subdued song on the album musically (and my favourite version out of this and the recording from Casting Crowns!). Driven by the acoustic guitar, just like the recording on Casting Crowns’ Thrive and led by Megan Garrett on vocals (which was actually recorded after Beth’s original version); this song passionately and fervently led by Beth, is sung from God’s perspective, and is also hopeful and reassuring, as she highlights God’s unending qualities and love for us, and prayerfully sings through God’s eyes, for us to follow Him and believe in His timeless promises. Inspired by the stories in the bible of men and women following Jesus (Jesus’ disciple Simon Peter, the woman at the well, and the thief on the cross), it is the heartfelt words in the last chorus that tug at me, as we can fully understand what it means to follow Jesus. As Beth eloquently sings out ‘…At the end of yourself, just follow Me, when you lose everything, just follow Me, I will give you new life, just follow Me…’, a promise that life with Jesus is immeasurably more fulfilling and better than without, despite the costs of earthly friendships. A fantastic opener, the rest of the three songs are powerful and speak volumes as well.
While “I’m Gonna Marry Him”, the ‘mainstream relationship’ song on this EP, tells us the story of Beth’s past hop and dreams of meeting the man that is meant for her by God, are presented with a joyful, happy go lucky up tempo acoustic guitar driven and hand claps prominent tune, that delves into how much she loves her husband. Enthusiastic and fervent, and giving us plenty of unique instruments to listen to, this folk tune telling the story of Beth and her husband is an encouragement for everyone whether single or married, to seek God and ask for the spouses that He wants us to have, or if you are married, to keep being the person that your spouse wants to be, with God’s help.
The 5 minute “Backyard”, driven by light piano, and giving off an overall 60’s or 70’s atmosphere, with a strings solo at the end, poses many questions, and Beth presents us with the notion that we have become so immersed in our own lives than our God. Confronting at best, and somewhat cynical, we are gently reminded that even if we want to make our own backyards (a metaphor for life) beautiful and better than our neighbours, God’s love still washes over us, and reminds us that the only race that we need to worry about is our own, rather than the person to the left or right. Though our decisions do not define His love for us, this in-your-face potent melody gives us something to think about, about whether it is truly worth it to build our kingdom up on earth, when we should be bringing people on earth into the kingdom of Jesus Christ. “Stars In The Sky”, the vertical worship acoustic guitar driven last song, ends the album with Beth singing that God loves us all the time, even when we feel we don’t deserve it. With plenty of musical invention here, the folk song sounding similar musically to something from All Sons and Daughters or Rend Collective, Beth offers up hop, motivation and inspiration that Jesus holds life all together, and that as He did put the stars in the sky, our life could never be in safer hands. Well done Beth for such a heartfelt song that I’m sure will mean so much to all who listen!
Beth Hazel Farris’s first EP is definitely one of many that will release either this year or next year (why else would it be called EP No. 1?), and these songs are more than enough to tie me over until the next album. With so much to be gained lyrically and thematically from listening to these unique and memorable gems and treasures; Beth’s offerings have left me wanting more, and I’m sure each one of you will find these songs thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring also. If you haven’t listened to her album, I suggest that you do right now- this could be the best indie EP of the year so far, or at least in my personal top 5. Well done Beth for a lyrically relevant and thought provoking mini-album, and one that hopefully draws people closer to Jesus Christ!
3 songs to listen to: Follow Me, Backyard, Stars In The Sky
RIYL: Casting Crowns, Nichole Nordeman, Ellie Holcomb, Ginny Owens, Audrey Assad