Release Date: January 8th 2021
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Tear My House Down
- God is Love (Live From the Smoak Stack)
- Let the Ground Rest (Live From the Smoak Stack)
- Springtime (Live From the Smoak Stack)
Chris Renzema was a very good find for me during 2020, delivering what I believe, in my opinion, is one of 2020’s most underrated albums of the year. It came out of left-field for me- you can read my review of the album here, and be sure to check out the album Let The Ground Rest whenever you have a chance- especially the standout songs like ‘Springtime’, ‘God is Love’ and ‘Steal Back Your Joy’. Now, 9 months or so removed from his 2020 album release, we see Chris invite us into another offering, this time it’s called Let the Ground Rest: B Sides, comprising of 2 new songs ‘Tear My House Down’ and ‘Mercy’, alongside ‘live from the smoakstack’ versions of ‘God is Love’, ‘Springtime’ and ‘Let the Ground Rest’.
‘Springtime’, ‘God is Love’ and ‘Let the Ground Rest’ are all present on this EP, and all from Chris’s Centricity Music debut project of 2020- this time here as ‘live from the smoakstack’. These three songs are presented acoustically, with just light percussion, acoustic guitars and Chris’s powerful, hauntingly refreshing vocal, reminding me of Mike Donehey (formally of Tenth Avenue North) at times. Chris’s authentic moments of vulnerability, highlighted here in these three acoustic tracks, is what will be Chris’s asset moving forward in years to come, a reminder that you don’t always have to have flashy music to deliver hard-hitting melodies of poignancy and truth. ‘God is Love’, ‘Springtime’ and ‘Let the Ground Rest’, easily my standout songs on Chris’s 2020 album, are most certainly deserving to be given the ‘smoakstack sessions’ rendition, hereby allowing the lyrics to shine through even more and remind myself why these songs stood out for me in the first place, last year.
‘Mercy’ wasn’t present on his 2020 album, but it is indeed a song poignant and heartfelt, special and personal to Chris as he states right from the outset, that ‘…the rejects, the dropouts, those used to being passed by, the addicts the burned out, who’ve lost their way so many times, there’s room at His table for you, there’s room at His table for you…’, a reminder that we are all welcome at the table of God. While the song itself was written years before his music career ever began, it has been only recently that Chris recorded the song, and is now track #2 on his B Sides EP. A song that encapsulates the Father heart of God within the 2 and a half minutes, we are nevertheless reminded that we don’t have to clean up our act before we come to the table of God, that His mercies are new continuously every day, and that all we have to do, is just show up. Grace upon grace given to us in circumstances where we can often think that we deserve none, ‘Mercy’ is an acoustic, yet equally profound and emotional song, one that we need right now during this time of worry and uncertainty, in a COVID-19 world. ‘Tear My House Down’ is the remaining song on this EP, also a new track alongside ‘Mercy’ as Chris takes us on this emotive and poignant 4-minute journey as the song livens up with strong percussion and guitars about half-way through. The song itself is a great reminder to always remember where we build our houses (and in turn our lives) on, and whether we are on the sand instead of the rock, and we don’t even know it. The song parallels us building our house with clay and sticks and tar and mortar, to us building our lives on things that do not matter, that will crumble like brittle plastic at the end of the day. ‘Tear My House Down’ is a prayer, one that speaks of desperation as Chris longs to be rid of his man-made kingdoms so that he can rest on the true salvation, which is Christ Jesus instead of the money, power, fame prestige and the ‘good works’ people asteem to chase after.
Too often in our lives, we are caught up in all the busyness, and here in both Let the Ground Rest and Let the Ground Rest: B Sides, I’ve been able to reflect and see things from a different point of view. Songs have spoken to me that I probably wouldn’t have listened to if I didn’t review Chris’s album in 2020. And while for me, I felt initially that Chris’s music was a little too folksy for me; I nevertheless journeyed on, taking the plunge into his music. I was wrong, and I was very, very pleased that I was wrong in this instance. Let the Ground Rest and Let the Ground Rest: B Sides is one of refreshing and renewal, as we rid ourselves of all the stress and worries in our lives, through just letting ‘the ground’ rest for a while- moving on to something else and coming back to it when the season is right. There are times and seasons for everything, and Chris’s new EP, is one where you can listen to it and be encouraged; if you’re a fan of someone like Tenth Avenue North or Andrew Peterson. Or if you enjoy folk music, acoustic music and everything else in between. Well done Chris for such a poweful EP, here’s hoping you follow along in Andrew Peterson’s footsteps and create music in a similar way to him, as the months and years continue to progress!
3 songs to listen to: Springtime, Mercy, Let the Ground Rest
RIYL: Jason Gray, Andrew Peterson, Jars Of Clay, Tenth Avenue North, needtobreathe