Big Machine Label Group
Release Date: May 21st 2021
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- A Little Love (feat. MercyMe)
- Never Forget (feat. Jonathan McReynolds)
- While I Wait (feat. Brittany LeVox)
- All I See (feat. Breland)
- The Distance
COVID-19 has thrown everything out of whack. That’s a fact. Albums postponed, music tours cancelled, movies delayed, people out of work… and in the case of country trio Rascal Flatts, COVID-19 means a quiet disbandment and no farewell tour… and no final all new studio album. For the adult contemporary/country trio that has been a staple in many a home throughout the 2000’s and 2010’s- to be suddenly gone and away from the radio and our lives… well that’s just point blank saddening and heartbreaking. But as you know the saying of ‘when God closes a door, he opens another’, or ‘when God closes a door he opens a window’? Yep, that saying is evidently true, through Gary LeVox’s debut CCM EP titled One On One which just released this month.
With Jon already reviewing Rascal Flatts’ latest EP (How They Remember You), and greatest hits project (Twenty Years Of Rascal Flatts: The Greatest Hits), and blogging about them too, it’s a moot point for me to go into Rascal Flatts in depth. But let me just say that Gary LeVox, lead singer of the now-defunct band, is one of the most passionate and inspiring singers I’ve heard in recent memory. So imagine my surprise and quiet optimism and abated anticipation when I heard the news of Gary’s debut single as a solo artist, and as an overt Christian artist. I was really pumped to hear “The Distance”. And then I heard it, and let me just say that I really, really prefer Rascal Flatts’ music better at this point in time- even at their most cliché. A listen to the remainder 4 tracks from Gary’s EP makes me more hopeful, but as it stands, I’ll still listen to Rascal Flatts more than Gary’s solo work- it’s fine, but nothing that ground-breaking.
Let me say from the outset that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Gary’s music. it’s pleasant on the ears, it’s lyrically uplifting, and immediately in the chorus of “The Distance”, the final track on the EP, we hear the firm declaration that ‘…with God you can go the distance, accept the challenge, for every battle that’s before you, hope’s not lost, it’s found on a cross, and all the strength to push on through, you can make it up the mountain, you can throw away your doubting, live bold and fearless, ‘cause with God, you can go the distance…’; thus it’s hard not to be happy for and proud of Gary for sharing his faith on a global scale. Yet this song sounds so much similar in theme of many CCM songs I’ve heard over the years. Namely most of Jason Crabb’s discography like “Love Was Stronger” and “He Knows What He’s Doing”. In fact, if you like songs like “Compass”, “Changed” and “I Won’t Let Go” from Gary’s former band, then you’ll love “The Distance”. Objectively though, there’s something about this song that feels weary and dull. The theme of God being with us has been done to death so many times, and you can’t help but feel like this song, though having good intentions, would’ve best been served as a last Rascal Flatts single from their greatest hits project. Or maybe given to Chris Tomlin- because he’s apparently into country music now, right?
EP opener “A Little Love” is a groovy, danceable country/pop number, where MercyMe frontman Bart Millard and Gary dive deep into the ever-true importance of love and especially God’s love, relaying to us that a little love goes a long way in really loving our neighbours as ourselves. However I personally feel MercyMe’s version to be stronger and much more engaging- but that’s just my own humble opinion. “Never Forget”, a piano based gospel infused ballad with Jonathan McReynolds, is as worshipful as ‘mainstream’ songs come, with both Jonathan and Gary delivering fervent and honest lyrics, and passionately crying out that ‘…my soul still remembers what my eyes can’t see, and my heart still rejoices in that memory, my today is a witness of our history, Jesus I’ll never forget what You’ve done for me…’; however an unfortunate misstep is Gary’s collaboration with up and coming country artist Breland, in the musically bland and uninteresting “All I See”. Lyrically, this admission of fault and humble prayer is spot on, as both Gary and Breland earnestly relay to us that they need God to draw our attention away from the transient things of this life and instead onto Him; however the music is lullaby-ish and nearly puts me to sleep. Thankfully, the EP’s crowning achievement more than makes up for all of the mishaps of “The Distance” and “All I See”; as “While I Wait” features Gary’s daughter Brittany and speaks about the vulnerable and honest topic of worshipping while waiting for… something. Similar in theme to “While I Wait” from Lincoln Brewster and “While I’m Waiting” from John Waller, Gary and Brittany eloquently impart to us that even though bad things cand and probably do still happen; God is still sovereign and on the throne- and thus we can praise Him while we wait for Him to move.
With 2 songs out of the 5 from One On One EP being not that memorable in my opinion; it may seem like If it seems like I’m bagging Gary LeVox overall. But this is certainly not my intention. Rascal Flatts have been instrumental in my own love for country music over the past few years, and I am sure that Gary will continue to churn out the solo songs that I will possibly resonate more with. And even though this EP on the whole is only ok, and isn’t connecting with me that much on an enjoyability level (although the lyrics are sincere and biblically based!); that’s not to say that others won’t be connected with this release. So is One On One an EP to listen to or to toss by the way side? Your choice… but let’s just say that either way you should stick around in Gary’s very early career as a Christian singer. Gary indeed has the passion to go far and the enthusiasm to carry us all along with him. God has gifted Gary with a gift that He wants him to continue to use. Whether anyone travels along with him on his journey is up in the air. Perhaps the next album or EP should be completely vertical worship to capture in the Passion and Hillsong crowd?
3 songs to listen to: A Little Love, Never Forget, While I Wait
RIYL: Thomas Rhett, Jason Crabb, Michael W. Smith, Chris Tomlin, 4Him, Home Free, Phillips Craig & Dean