Made To Thrive Records
Release Date: August 28th 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
Beth Hazel Farris– Life Is All Music (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
- Follow Me
- I’m Gonna Marry Him
- Star in the Sky
- A Dream
- Sailor and the Southern Girl
- He Knows My Name
- Queen Of Your World
- Happy Land
- The One
- Your Song
Releasing her first EP on Made To Thrive Records in April, and her second EP in June, Beth Hazel Farris is back with her first full length album called Life Is All Music, which released at the end of August. One of this year’s independent artists to look out for, I reviewed both her two EP’s here and here, of which I applauded and praised both of them, and congratulated her efforts. This full length album (containing the 8 tracks on EP’s 1 and 2, as well as 4 more new tracks) is also amazing. Recording a lyrically relevant album the first and second times around, with though provoking topics and themes interwoven throughout; these 4 new added songs have so much to be gained lyrically and thematically as well- as we are met with plenty of Beth’s musical influences including country, folk, and bluegrass, and we are presented with a humble and authentic artist who is not afraid to be open and honest. Once again trying to bridge the gap between Christian and mainstream music, Beth’s hope to deliver songs with a though provoking and encouraging message deserves to be celebrated and noted!
With a smorgasbord of topics being sung about in this album, the 8 familiar tracks are placed first, and remind me once again why Beth is such as brilliant songwriter and a passionate and emotional storyteller. The album opens up with “Follow Me”, one of the most subdued song on the album musically (and it’s my favourite version when compared to the recording by Casting Crowns!). Driven by the acoustic guitar; this song is sung from God’s perspective, and is also hopeful and reassuring, as Beth 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…’, it’s a promise that life with Jesus is immeasurably more fulfilling and better than without, despite the costs of earthly friendships.
Throughout the rest of the album, Beth includes relationship songs as well as worship songs, showing us her musical and thematic diversity. “I’m Gonna Marry Him” tells us the story of Beth’s past hop and dreams of meeting the man that is meant for her by God, we 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. This folk tune sure 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. Another relationship song, the subdued acoustic guitar driven “Sailor and the Southern Girl” is a relationship style melody that vividly paints a picture of two people in love, describing that love to be true and pure. It nevertheless reminds us of a love that we ought to strive for with Jesus. We ought to be so in love with Jesus that nothing should tear us and Him apart, and in my opinion, if it takes a mainstream love song for us to figure out the depth, height, and width of God’s love; then I’m ok with that.
From the first banjo pluck of “Dream”, I knew that this song would be special. Driven by strings, keys and country genre themed instruments, Beth dives head on and sings earnestly about a couple of young people reminiscent of the parable of the Lost Son. In the verses the young people go off in search for meaning and purpose, trying to find it in their personal dreams and hopes for the future, yet Beth reminds us gently in the chorus that young people need guidance and dreams bigger than themselves, then the world can easily tempt and sway them into believing anything, which may not be healthy. Beth also moves on to make a comment about society that we are wrapped up in our own lives to notice the slow demise of our younger generation to the world; and that we should instead look at our children through God’s eyes. Though these bold lyrics may not resonate with everyone, I commend Beth for taking a risk and singing what she actually feels.
The 5 minute “Backyard”, driven by light piano, and giving off an overall 60’s or 70’s atmosphere, where 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, 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 track, on the other hand, has 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 hope that Jesus holds life all together.
The remaining two previously recorded songs are “Invincible” and “He Knows My Name”. While “Invincible” is driven by keys and guitar, where Beth reveals herself fully- her faults and fears, yet also outlines the promises God has told her time and time again; “He Knows My Name” is an upbeat guitar driven story song, told from Zacchaeus’s point of view, about the ‘sinner turned follower’ of Jesus, who tried to glimpse Jesus on a tree, yet Jesus ate lunch with him after he called him by name. Not one of the well-known stories from the Bible, Beth has chosen a rare treasure to describe, and shows us that we’re never too far gone for God to accept and love us. Well done Beth for an encouraging melody, certain to be enjoyed by lovers of folk and acoustic music.
Out of the new tracks, there is yet another relationship song- “Queen Of Your World”. A light acoustic guitar and keys slow ballad, Beth speaks about her children and their immense love for her as a mother, and her joy for them, and also gratefulness to God for allowing her to be a mother. Reminding us to hold onto the simple things in life, and treasure everything God gives us here on earth, the tempo changes as the raucous up-tempo country/bluegrass party “Happy Land”, an old hymn written in 1838. Thematically, musically and lyrically similar to David Crowder*Band’s “I Saw The Light”, Beth fervently proclaims God’s praises, and eloquently sings out that He is to be honoured and worshipped forevermore. Also presenting us with a bright view of heaven, Beth cries out ‘…come to that happy land, come, come away! Why will ye doubting stand, why still delay? Oh we shall happy be, when from sin and sorrow free, Lord we shall live with thee, blest, blest for aye…’; and it is this happy-go-lucky carefree and bubbly tune that took me by surprise, but definitely in a good way.
“The One” and “Your Song” round out the album and are worship songs to Jesus. “The One” is a slow acoustic guitar led introspective and reflective melody, in which Beth ardently reminds us to look to Jesus in our times of trouble, despair and hardship. As she sings out with heart and passion in the chorus ‘…look to the One, the holy One, cling to His outstretched arm, this world cannot give you what you need inside, so look to the holy One…’, we are glimpsed into a woman who is on fire for Jesus and is not afraid to show her faith to the world. As “Your Song”, a highlight on the album overall, and a mid tempo vibrant strings and acoustic guitar led ballad, detailing how we are to be vessels for Jesus, pointing everything to Him, ends a brilliant and captivating album, and Beth eloquently cries out that ‘…I am here to worship You and I am here to sing Your song…You fill that void and now I know…’, I can’t help but press ‘repeat’ after the tracks have all played. Seriously, this de but album is pure gold and sheer brilliance, and I have nothing but praise for Beth and her efforts to lift God up!
Beth Hazel Farris’s full length debut album is a real joy to listen to, and is definitely one of this year’s highlights in terms of folk/acoustic albums. Relatable and honest, emotional and real, inspiring and comforting; there’s plenty of positive emotions that arise from these humble, vulnerable, honest and inspiring 12 tracks. If you haven’t listened to her album, I suggest that you do right now! In fact, bypass the listening and buy the album- I guarantee it will be money well spent! Well done Beth for a challenging and musically refreshing full length album; one that is sure to capture people’s attention, drawing them to Jesus!
3 songs to listen to: Follow Me, He Knows My Name, Your Song
RIYL: Ellie Holcomb, Audrey Assad, Sara Groves, Casting Crowns, All Sons and Daughters