Casting Crowns – Only Jesus (Deluxe)

Provident Label Group LLC

Release Date: September 25th 2020

Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre

Casting CrownsOnly Jesus (Deluxe) (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. The Bridge
  2. Nobody (feat. Matthew West)
  3. Only Jesus
  4. In the Hands of the Potter
  5. Even When You’re Running
  6. One Awkward Moment
  7. Awaken Me
  8. One More Song For You
  9. Start Right Here
  10. The Change in Me
  11. Love Moved First
  12. Home
  13. Only Jesus (Acoustic Version)
  14. Start Right Here (Single Version)
  15. Nobody (Live) [feat. Elevation Worship]
  16. Only Jesus (Music Video) [Video]
  17. Nobody (Music Video) [feat. Matthew West] [Video]
  18. Start Right Here (Single Version) [Official Lyric Video] [Video]
  19. Nobody (Live) [feat. Elevation Worship] [Video]
  20. Only Jesus (New York Sessions) [Video]
  21. The Bridge, Only Jesus Visual Album: Part 1 (Introduction)
  22. Nobody, Only Jesus Visual Album: Part 2 (feat. Matthew West)
  23. Awaken Me, Only Jesus Visual Album: Part 3
  24. One Awkward Moment, Only Jesus Visual Album: Part 4
  25. One More Song For You, Only Jesus Visual Album: Part 5
  26. Love Moved First, Only Jesus Visual Album: Part 6
  27. In the Hands of the Potter, Only Jesus Visual Album: Part 7
  28. Even When You’re Running, Only Jesus Visual Album: Part 8
  29. The Change in Me, Only Jesus Visual Album: Part 9
  30. Start Right Here, Only Jesus Visual Album: Part 10
  31. Home, Only Jesus Visual Album: Part 11 (Conclusion)

For me these last few years, I’ve been listening to a band that is as popular within the Christian music community as they are controversial, they are as biblically sound as they are vibrantly convicting. They have helped me immensely on my own walk with God these last few years; and are one of my favourite bands of late. Casting Crowns, a band that has been talked about amongst people who love Christian music (like myself) for ages, was borne out of Florida, and is one such band that comforts and unsettles at the same time. They give us melodies of hope and encouragement, and other songs, they try to poke and prod, to have a reaction of change in a community that needs it, by provoking emotions of discomfort, as we look and see what is wrong with society and the status quo, and to act upon these convictions, as we try, with God’s help, to rectify what has been shattered and broken, maybe for generations. What I have found to be admirable about the band in general, when compared to the countless other bands that have toured relentlessly over the years, is that they’ve always been grounded in their local church. While still operating as a full time band, they are still at home at least half of every week. So while I’m sure other bands do around 200+ shows per year, Casting Crowns would probably want to limit the exposure of touring to around half of that. And maybe that’s ok. I’m sure, regardless of touring schedule, and whether a band tours more or less, a band can still be effective- and Casting Crowns have proven, that though they don’t travel as much as other bands do, they still impact and affect the lives of everyday people, myself included.

The band have had a storied and prolific music career over the years- since their Florida beginnings, Casting Crowns have now become such a band that has given to us a lot of albums, alongside many awards and opportunities to bring songs to the masses through the radiowaves. To put it bluntly, Casting Crowns write music that is primarily radio friendly and accessible to the average joe person, but all the while carefully crafting some of Christian music’s most emotive and poignant lyrics. In essence- lyrically, the band is top notch, with much of the music, in fact, all of it, grounded in the Word of God, and reminding us of the qualities of God and who we are in light of that. The music as a whole, will leave a lot of listeners to be desired, because frankly, Casting Crowns aren’t as musically risqué or even inventive when compared to many other artists within the CCM community- the likes of Crowder, All Sons and Daughters, Third Day, Andrew Peterson, all these guys have a much more interesting musical backdrop compared to the band out of Florida. And maybe, that’s ok. The band hasn’t really focused too much on the aesthetics and how the music sounds in the grand scheme of things. If the song touches a person’s life, then the band has served their purpose.

The band unveiled Only Jesus (Deluxe) in September 2020, and on the heels of their best-of 16 track collection of songs thus far in their career (Voice of Truth: The Ultimate Collection in November 2019) and The New York Sessions that unveiled to us around the same time as well; Only Jesus (Deluxe) was released during a year where we need emotive and poignant albums the most. While the album was actually a re-release of their 2018 album Only Jesus– with a few more renditions of songs like ‘Only Jesus’, ‘Starts Right Here’, and ‘Nobody’, alongside their 11 track Only Jesus Visual Album (of which they received a Dove Award in 2019 for the Long Form Music Video of the Year); Only Jesus (Deluxe) nevertheless is an album for us to dwell upon and revisit after a couple of years and realise that songs from a few years ago can still have impact a few years later on. For I guess if you as a lead singer of any band goes through a cancer diagnosis and comes out the other side by the grace of God, any album afterward is going to reflect the gratefulness and thankfulness that comes along with surviving cancer – for Mark Hall, lead singer of Casting Crowns, indeed went through his cancer ordeal in the mid-2010s- heavily documented and reported on virtually every major news outlet around that time too. For the themes prevalent in Only Jesus– both the standard version and the deluxe, are themes of being low so that God can be made great, for declaring God’s fame and understanding that we as mere humans don’t really need a legacy- that Jesus is the only name everyone ought to remember when all is said and done. For I’ve always found Casting Crowns to speak hard truths and to rattle our own preconceptions of what we believe the Christian walk of life to look like and be, and their 2018 album, and by extension this new 2020 one, is no different. Mark Hall and co. offer to us heartfelt songs all with a heartfelt message, and while I myself didn’t review the album when it released (the review can be seen here and was reviewed by my brother Josh), I nevertheless heard the album numerous times, and while for me it doesn’t hold a candle to my favourite album The Altar and the Door, it does nudge in at 2nd– closely edging out Lifesong which was my second favourite album from the band for a long time…until this latest album of course! Listeners in general will be challenged by the themes discussed in the album, and coupled with the fact that the band also undertook a visual journey component- 11 music video clips spanning 5 decades and 3 generations that told an interwoven story about a young couple moving into and living in a home over the years; Only Jesus (Deluxe) is a welcomed addition to any Casting Crowns catalogue. Along with Mark Hall himself giving devotional talks to every single song from the album as well (not on Only Jesus (Deluxe) but should’ve been), Only Jesus (Deluxe) is by far the most detailed, thought-out and relevant musical release the band has unveiled in their music career thus far. And below is an excerpt of Mark Hall’s own thoughts on Only Jesus the album, and how his outlook has changed over the last few years. And it is in these interview excerpts and video devotionals that my respect for the band has skyrocketed, being more impacted by the band through the story-behind-the-songs and interviews with the band, maybe even more so than the actual music itself.

When you look at Scripture, it makes us look almost upside down sometimes and how we live and what we put first. We’re living in a time of making a name for ourselves, and being known, and how do we want to be remembered, and what’s our legacy going to be? But when you look at Scripture, no hero of the faith ever set out to be one. No leader ever got up and said, ‘I want to be a leader today. I want to be a hero today. I want to have followers today. Everyone in scripture that we pattern our life after got up every morning and said, ‘You’re first Jesus. What do you want? What is your will?’ Not ‘What is your will for my life?’ Not, ‘What can you do for me and how can you bless what I’m doing?’ But they got up and said, ‘God, what are you doing today? I want in. It just reminds me that when I get up in the morning God already has a plan, and this is His story. I’m a part of His story. So I’ve got to focus myself on Scripture and on truth so that when I get out into the world, I’m like, ‘Alright God, how can I show them what you’re doing?’ I don’t need to leave a legacy. I don’t need to be remembered. People remembering me isn’t going to help them. There’s only so far I can take you. You’ll just walk away going, ‘Why, how can I be like that guy.’ But if I do like Paul did and say, ‘Here’s what you need to know about me. I’ve got every kind of struggle and failure in my path. I got nothing going for me. You don’t need to pay attention to me at all. I’ll lead you the wrong way. You need to look to Jesus.’ That’s my reminder that Jesus is the only name to remember!’

Casting Crowns have had a plethora of radio hits in the past; and will so in the future. They’ve influenced people’s lives, mine included, and have influenced not just CCM but I believe music in general; and have shown the wider community that it is ok to unveil vulnerable and innermost thoughts in music, especially when you’re a CCM/Christian music artist. It is assumed by and large that much of CCM seemingly appears fake, and that music artists write from a place of elevation of self compared to others. And yet when we hear Casting Crowns and their music, there is a sense of honesty and urgency, of compassion, care and a hope that is presented that is seemingly lacking, especially in the mainstream music industry. There is a sense of realness to Casting Crowns the band and their songs, and their new album Only Jesus (Deluxe) carries to the fore, the realness and relevance that has made them flourish in an industry that is ever competitive, from their inception, till now, and most certainly in the future. Mark and co. have given to us a whopping track listing of 31 tracks (15 audio and 16 visual) and reminds us of how impactful their most recent album Only Jesus was in 2018, and still is right now in 2020. For fans of Casting Crowns, or even fans of Christian music in general, this is a must have- if you’ve ever been a fan of the band from the start, or even a brand new one. Maybe, just maybe, pick this album up, alongside their 8 track EP The New York Sessions and their best-of 16 song collection (released in November 2019) and gift it to a friend in the future? Well done Mark and co. for such a powerful and poignant collection of 31 songs, a great way to revitalise and refresh the 2018 album Only Jesus, quite possibly my 2nd favourite Casting Crowns album after 2007’s The Altar and the Door. Congrats to the band on this album release, here’s hoping that the next studio album recording, whenever that may be, is as poignant and heartfelt as Only Jesus in 2018!

5 songs to listen to: Nobody, Only Jesus, Even When You’re Running, One Awkward Moment, Love Moved First

Score: 5/5

RIYL: Tenth Avenue North, Avalon, MercyMe, Matthew West

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