Provident Label Group
Release Date: January 29th 2021
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Start Right Here (HGA Version) [feat. KB]
Casting Crowns needs no introduction. No seriously…they don’t. If you are a diehard fan of this Florida CCM group, or even if you’re a casual listener, I’m sure anyone who knows music, even mainstream music, knows Casting Crowns, right? Besides, I’m sure you all have read my blog post about Casting Crowns that I wrote about in 2019…and now that we’ve got all the formalities out of the way, let me just say that over the last few years, I’ve been tremendously blessed and impacted by this group- and Mark Hall & co. are fast becoming one of my favourite Christian bands out there, ever…alongside others like Tenth Avenue North, Switchfoot, Skillet and for KING & COUNTRY, to name a few. A band that has been discussed amongst people who love Christian music (like myself) for ages, 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. 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. From songs like ‘East to West’, ‘Courageous’, ‘If We are the Body’, ‘Praise You in This Storm’ and ‘Lifesong’, to ‘Until the Whole World Hears’, ‘Already There’, ‘Jesus, Friend of Sinners’, ‘Oh My Soul’, ‘Just Be Held’, and ‘Broken Together’; 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 and to put it bluntly; 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.
Casting Crowns released their chart-topping album Only Jesus in 2018, with their standout hits like ‘Only Jesus’, ‘Nobody’, ‘Love Moved First’, and their most recent radio tune, ‘Starts Right Here’. The band even saw the success of this album, that they unveiled in 2020, a deluxe version of the album in September. 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) was nevertheless an album for us to dwell upon and revisit in 2020 (and 2021), and realise that songs from a few years ago can still have impact a few years later on. 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! And hidden within this album tracklist was a song that is currently the radio single now; but was a song that didn’t really stand out to me upon my very own first listen to Only Jesus, way back in 2018. ‘Starts Right Here’ is the current radio single from Casting Crowns at the moment, and this version of the song, unveiled at the end of January 2021, features Christian rapper KB in their CCM/rap infused track that nevertheless still inspires and impacts, even if it sounds almost drastically different than the original recording!
‘Starts Right Here’ was a song released on Only Jesus, and again on Only Jesus (Deluxe) and is now released as ‘Start Right Here (HGA Version) (feat. KB)’. The song itself never loses it’s timely messasge of the original, as we’re reminded of how change in the world starts with us right in our own spheres of influence, but this reimagined version feels almost like a different song…and that can be good and bad at the same time. Kudos for Casting Crowns for trying something new, but this unfortunately won’t be a song you can enjoy wholeheartedly if you haven’t listened to much rap before. KB raps an entirely new first verse; and adds his own rap beats around the song as well, so from first glance, it feels musically alien. Nevertheless, Casting Crowns have managed to deliver a track that is still emotive and poignant as ever, while still bringing to us the truth we need to hear during such a time as this. The song touches on the sentiment that here in these ‘western nations’, our versions of Christianity can be too comfortable for anyone’s good- we ‘…want our coffee in the lobby, we watch our worship on a screen, we got a rockstar preacher who won’t wake us from our dreams, we want out blessings in our pocket, we keep our missions overseas, but for the hurting in our cities, would we even cross the street?…’ Sobering questions, I know, but this song nevertheless touches our bones, and is a relevant song for today. The rap remix is just as exciting and compelling; and is a must-listen if you are a fan of Casting Crowns music, rap music, and/or both. Well done Mark Hall and co. for ‘Starts Right Here’, a song that can hopefully challenge us to be more neighbourly and loving to people we wouldn’t necessarily hang out with, people who are different from us, even people who agitate us, who we wouldn’t consider people we’d hang out with intentionally. Looking forward to whenever there is a new album in the future…maybe this year sometime?
‘…the world changing is not going to happen in the white house. The world changing is not going to happen if we make the right laws and keep everybody in line. The world changes when Jesus changes it, and Jesus changes the world through us. We’re it. We’re the hands and the feet. It’s time to step out of our walls, get out there and love a world that really needs it. And it starts right here…’
RIYL: Lecrae, Matthew West, MercyMe, Derek Minor