Release Date: April 7th 2015
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- The Maker
- I’m in Love With You
- He’s Still Here
- Drop Your Stone
- Gotta Be a Change
- Find You to Find Me
- Just the Same
- Muddy Waters
Since bursting onto the CCM scene by winning the Best New Artist at the 2010/11 Dove Awards, Chris August’s soul/pop singing style a la Shawn McDonald or Jimmy Needham has garnered many fans within the last few years. From hits like “Starry Night” and “Center of It”, to the popular radio version of “Unashamed of You” and the power ballad “Restore”; Chris’s switch from initially being a mainstream artist to devoting his time within the CCM circle has paid off- and with his new album titled The Maker, Chris takes us all back to the theme of reflecting upon The Maker and everything He has done for us in our lives thus far. Releasing the day after Easter Monday via Fervent Records, Chris’s first release after his skateboard accident in 2012 has given the album as a whole much more poignancy and meaning.
With hope, honesty and heart all central to The Maker and all its facets of themes; Chris’s third label album is not one to shy away from if you are a fan of the genre that encompasses artists like Jimmy or Shawn, or newworldson. From the title track that describes how ‘…in all of this to think that You would think of me, makes my heart come alive…’ to second promotional single “I’m In Love With You”, a mainstream melody directed to couples (or even singles trying to express their love for someone) everyone; this is an album certain to be loved by listeners and critics alike throughout the rest of 2015 and beyond!
While the skateboard accident led Chris to a whole lot of medication and an uncertainty as to whether he would release a new album again (both No Far Away and The Upside of Down released in the month of August two years apart- interesting pun- and when August 2014 rolled around, there was no album from Chris); yet what we find in The Maker is gratitude- gratitude for a second chance, and gratitude to be even playing music again. While I’m sure Chris is still in the process of being fully 100% healed, we can see his heart for praise and adoration in just about every song on The Maker.
Released as a music video at the beginning of the year, “The Maker” is as picturesque as any other video (in fact, stacked against music videos of this year, I’d say Chris’s is the most vibrant and uniquely coloured). A song that talks about how Christ the Maker reminds us all each day through His creation of the glory and wonder of Himself, Chris declares out the simple, poignant, yet profound words, that ‘…I love the Maker, and the Maker loves me…’ A fitting song to hear during this Easter season, this keyboard heavy melody is one to be childlike over, with Chris reminding us all that in every circumstance we have a chance to see God moving and at work.
Also carrying on with the Easter tradition is current single “He’s Still Here”. Primed and fit for radio (aren’t all singles?), this is a song that’s certain to be stuck in everyone’s heads- even more so than the title track, as Chris invites us all to take a look into how we can often believe (either consciously or subconsciously) that God isn’t moving as much now as He did when Jesus was around. While this belief said out loud can be absolutely ridiculous, it is a valid question- with everything happening right now around the world, are we susceptible to believe, even just for a moment, that ‘…we don’t believe in miracles…’ or think that ‘…God stopped moving when He does…’ Chris tends to change all of that, with the challenge to listeners everywhere that God is still an active part of people’s lives rather than just an observer in the sky not involved with the decisions we make.
The song in between, “I’m in Love With You”, is a short 3 minute song with a heavy acoustic guitar beat, and though not as heartfelt and spiritually meaningful as either “He’s Still Here” or “The Maker”, what this song has is a whimsical sense of fun and enjoyment that is equally needed as much as the spiritually moving. Written for loved ones to sing towards one another, Chris speaks about commitment and standing by loved ones during difficult times, and that sometimes it is saying the three words “I love you” that’ll make the difference between the results of circumstances. A love song that I’m sure will be sung by people during the Valentine’s Day season; Chris’s first three tracks is as strong as any other (possibly on par with Hawk Nelson’s latest- “Diamonds”, “Drops in the Ocean” and “Just Getting Started”).
With “Paradise” being one of the mellowest songs on the album, Chris invites us all into a bit of personal life in this song to a relative who passed away. Singing about how they were a big influence in his spiritual life, we are reminded to cherish the moments with the ones we love, and also know that the world we live in isn’t our home, and thus ‘…this is not goodbye, I’ll see you in paradise…’ In a similar theme to other songs like “That Home” (Newsboys), “Slip on By” (Finding Favour) and “Not Home Yet” (Steven Curtis Chapman); Chris gives us a longing home and great anticipation for our heavenly home, while still appreciative on the input we receive here on earth. “Drop Your Stone”, another highlight, calls us all to reserve judgement and to stop throwing metaphorical stones at everyone else that are different or stranger from ourselves. As Chris declares over the backdrop of pulsating drums and a strong bass line that ‘…if we’re pointing the finger, we’re free to point it back at us, do you not remember, where we were before the flood, before His love…’ We have all been different and quirky once in a while, and so this song serves as an encouragement that every person can be redeemed, no matter how close to the brink of no return they can be.
Throughout the rest of the album, Chris invites us all to collectively hear the message of hope as we allow the Maker of the universe and all that He is soak into our very being as we ponder the meaning of Easter and the gravity of releasing such a project around this time of reflection and celebration. “Gotta Be A Change” brings a heavy electric guitar riff presence into the message of always moving forward in a relationship with Christ, and that sometimes we can still live in chains even though we know we’re free, and that ‘…there’s gotta be a difference, there’s gotta be a change…’ before we can fully embrace God’s promise of freedom for us. “Find You to Find Me”, another single of Chris’s prior to the album release, allows hand claps, finger clicks and a swinging motown atmosphere to bring the theme of finding ourselves through finding God to the fore. With the instrumentals harkening back to something from a 90s comedy show or two, we are blessed to hear a plethora of musical influences in Chris’s music, from CCM to nostalgia and everything else in between. “Just the Same” continues with the theme of love and acceptance through Christ as Chris uses a keyboard chord riff to present the fact that ‘…You give me grace to cover everything I’ve done, and I will do, You take my heart and with Your mercies every day, You make it new…’; while “Superhero” shows Chris’s personal side in the form of superhero comic book motifs as he delivers another love song to be adored by many couples and singles alike.
“Muddy Waters” showcases the side of Chris that I haven’t really seen musically, with hand claps, a fast musical pace, a gospel choir, brass instruments, and a guitar solo a la Lincoln Brewster to bring the song to one of the most creative songs on The Maker. While the subject matter isn’t all that different to what the overall theme of the album is about- acknowledging that we sometimes swim in muddy waters and that it is Christ and everything He is that allows us to break free; it is the musicality of the song that is what stands out as the highlight. “Something” the 11th track, is another love melody, and slows it down a bit, being a great transition out of something as frenzied and energetic as “Muddy Waters”. With a piano, Chris sings to a special someone, that ‘…you are my only, my all, everything meanings nothing unless I’ve got something with you…’, and we realise that the love a man and a woman share is just as minuscule amount compared to the love the Father has for His creation. A great way to end an album full of musical surprises and unique arrangements, The Maker is one of Chris’s best to date.
Releasing after one of the most pivotal and meaningful times of the year for Christians, Chris’s latest effort is one to cherish, remember, savour and highlight as the songs on The Maker take on a whole different meaning when they’re placed against the backdrop of Easter. With Chris’s unique musical style that sets him apart from other CCM artists like Josh Wilson, Brandon Heath or Matthew West; Chris continues to wow fans and critics alike with his whimsical fun atmosphere, his serious moments of heart and hope, as well as songs that are just plain enjoyable and fun, with this album being no different. From the title track to songs like “He’s Still Here”, “Superman”, “Drop Your Stone” and “Gotta Be a Change”; this is a perfect gift for anyone who loves soul-pop, and enjoys music by similar style artists like Unspoken, Dara Maclean, Shawn McDonald or Jimmy Needham. Well done Chris for these 11 tracks that mould together genres of worship, pop, soul and a whole lot of fun in between. Can’t wait for the next album whenever it releases!
3 songs to listen to: The Maker, Drop Your Stone, He’s Still Here
RIYL: Shawn McDonald, Newworldson, Jimmy Needham, Dara Maclean, Unspoken