Capitol Christian Music Group
Release Date: March 19th 2021
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Alone With My Faith [ORIGINAL]
- Because He Lives
- Be Not Afraid
- Benevolent Man [ORIGINAL]
- Amazing Grace
- The Old Rugged Cross
- How Great Thou Art
- God And My Gospel [ORIGINAL]
- Old Time Religion
- All These Miracles [ORIGINAL]
- Look Who I Found [ORIGINAL]
- Thank You For Waiting (For Me) [ORIGINAL]
- Panis Angelicus
Throughout the history of time, the collision of ‘Christian’ and ‘secular’ has created divide and criticism and healthy discussion. There has always been a divide and I believe there shouldn’t be. If you’re a Christian in the music industry and you’re making art that glorifies God- regardless if you’re overtly singing Jesus’ name or not, you shouldn’t be ridiculed and persecuted for that. Artists like Switchfoot, Skillet, Needtobreathe, Kirk Franklin, Lecrae, for KING & COUNTRY, even Chris Tomlin with his country album last year… all of these artists have felt at one point or another God calling them to use their gifts in the mainstream market. And that’s ok. It’s more than ok. Likewise, if you have been predominately in the mainstream market and you’re a believer and you feel God calling you to record a album predominately for worshipping God, that’s ok too, and you shouldn’t feel isolated or shunned because of that either. Now Kanye West is probably the most popular artist who falls into the latter camp (and there is indeed some debate as to whether he’s a true believer or not!), while Carrie Underwood recently released a hymns/gospel album, and artists like NF, Owl City, and Tori Kelly are believers (as well as the lead singers of Evanescence, Daughtry, OneRepublic and Anberlin) yet all release music for the mainstream. Which brings me to Alone With My Faith from Harry Connick Jr.
A glance down Harry’s extensive discography on Wikipedia reveals at least 25 albums, and for me this is pretty daunting and overwhelming if you’re someone who wants to peruse through the entire discography of an artist after you ‘discover’ them; however this hymns/gospel album should not be overlooked. Raw, emotional, personal, honest and vulnerable, Alone With My Faith showcases Harry’s faith to the fore, and reminds us that a Christian recording music in the mainstream and covertly showing their faith that way rather than in an overt way in the CCM industry… it’s perfectly fine. Issues of whether a Christian’s salvation hangs in the balance if they sing a ‘secular’ song shouldn’t be an issue at all, because these are opinions that have nothing to do with the heart and faith of a person. Well, that’s enough of me on my soapbox, because you’ve come to see whether I believe Harry’s album is worth listening to, right? I mean, whether you believe in Jesus or not, I’m sure you can appreciate a well-recorded and heartfelt album. So what’s my verdict? Is Alone With My Faith strengthening of my own faith in Jesus. Well I’m not that well versed in Harry’s material… but as it’s similar to Michael Buble’s discography in sound; let’s just say that it’s not my preferred genre, but after a few listens, this album really grows on me.
I grew up with faith. My dad is a Catholic from Mobile, Alabama and my mother is a Jewish woman from New York. And we had an interesting household. My mother didn’t really subscribe to any denomination by the time I got to know her. She believed in God, but she also believed in things that were not Christian, things like reincarnation. So it was confusing in the best of ways because I was hearing different perspectives. And although I went to church with my dad, I didn’t get baptized in the Catholic church until I was 14 when I decided I wanted to be Catholic. So my faith has always been there. It certainly was developed over time. And then during the pandemic it was tested in an unusual way because it wasn’t like I was going through a particular situation that was unique to me. I was going through something that the entire world was going through. So I wondered a lot about faith and where it was. Because if I was a person who believed that I had faith where was it this particular morning or afternoon. Why was I feeling this way? Why was I feeling so unconfident or unsure? There were other days where I would weep when I would do the music, which is something that doesn’t happen too much in the context of the studio recording, where you may put yourself in an emotional space but rarely does it turn out to be sobbing and weeping. Because of maybe my own inhibitions or my knowledge of the fact when you cry you can’t sing. So you have to shut the session down. So there were all kinds of tests and unprecedented circumstances as a result of the pandemic. So to answer your question, faith has always been there, but it’s certainly transformed and grown and evolved.
My definition of faith is a gift that was given to me by God to compel me to want to communicate with God. And my definition of faith hasn’t changed. But how I’ve come to see it has been stretched as a result of this because this has been an experience that’s allowed me to empathize with folks who are going through the exact same thing. So I’ve had to talk about my faith in the context of someone else’s faith or lack thereof, about a shared experience. I’ve never had that. I’ve had personal tragedy, I’ve had ups and downs where my faith has gone up and down. But I’ve never had a situation where I can talk to somebody else about how their faith got them through compared to how my faith got me through. So my definition hasn’t changed, but my experience has broadened.
If you all are fans of traditional hymns preserved and sung like they were written way back when; then you’ll love almost everything about Alone With My Faith. However listeners like myself who long for updated hymns and more artists covering modernised tracks like “Living Hope”; well, then this album will take some adjusting. There’s a ton of traditional hymn elements permeated all throughout this release (like horns, organs, simple yet effective lyrics that we’ve sung in churches for all of eternity!), and if we’re willing to travel back to our childhood and revisit the good and bad moments of church, and realise that God was in control in that moment, and even the most uninteresting and mundane hymns can be used to glorify Him; then that perspective can truly deepen our appreciation of an album like this. The album opens up with the subdued title track, an original led by the piano, whereby Harry prayerfully relays that even when we’re alone, God is with us, so we can lead on him at all times when we need to, and hence we’re never really truly alone. “Because He Lives”, originally by The Gaither Vocal Band, is next, and is covered beautifully in a musically simplistic way, with Harry highlighting that because of Jesus living in us, we can have comfort and assurance that our life will be overall satisfying and filled with life, that ‘…because he lives, all fear is gone, because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because he lives…’.
Personally I haven’t heard the hymn “Be Not Afraid”, but Harry makes this song his own, as he emphatically relays from God’s perspective that Jesus will be with us always, and we need not be afraid; while “Amazing Grace”, “How Great Thou Art” and “The Old Rugged Cross” are sung and recorded to perfection- these timeless classics are lyrical and melodic treasures with Harry at his most vulnerable and emotional. It’s a shame that “Amazing Grace” isn’t the Chris Tomlin version (as that is my favourite version of all!), however that’s a nit-pick that’s neither here nor there. Original recording “Benevolent Man” is as emotional and personal as any song in 2021, as Harry questions whether he is a ‘benevolent’ man, whether He is using the gifts God has given him for further the kingdom of God or not- kind of a more introspective version of “My Own Little World” by Matthew West; while the musically different rocker “God And My Gospel” is an original that breaks the barriers of what a mesh of gospel and rock would sound like, as Harry once again looks inwards and powerfully declares that God and the gospel of Jesus Christ is all He needs to survive and thrive.
“Old Time Religion”, an obscure but powerful hymn, delves into the concept of staying true to the basics of Christianity, of standing for what is true and what should always be considered close handed doctrines (the divinity of Jesus Christ, the cross and resurrection); while my personal highlight on Alone With My Faith is the contemplative and reflective “All These Miracles”, whereby Harry vividly describes all of the miracles he sees in his life, that ‘…sometimes the little things are so hard to see, and good things hard to do, but I know in this great big world, that You still see me, please bring me closer to You…’. “Look Who I Found” has a Carman type atmosphere, and is as charismatic and Pentecostal as you can imagine, as Harry testifies that he has found Jesus after looking for something for a long, long time; while the vulnerable and emotive “Thank You For Waiting (For Me)” is sung from each of our own perspectives, thanking God for waiting for us even when we desert him or lose our way like the lost sheep or the prodigal son. This prayer and song of gratitude and thanks reminds us that even when we’re in the dark, God never lets go of us, and He’s always drawing us closer to Him; while the album ends with the traditional “Panis Angelicus”, a Latin hymn about bread and communion.
I try in my personal life not to lie, because when you lie, you have to remember the lie, and that can catch you sometimes (laughs.) But if you always tell the truth, you never have to worry about that. And it’s the same thing for me musically. Just tell the truth. I could have done an album of all uplifting songs for sure and that would have been cool. But that’s not what this record was. This record was ‘What am I feeling right now’ And the interesting thing to me is that I think we’re all feeling the same thing. That’s worthy of documenting on an album for me. I hope that will resonate with some folks. It’s just about telling the truth.
One thing that I can tell you that was different was the actual recording process. Because I was alone, there were times when I would actually break down sobbing. I wouldn’t really do that normally in the studio. There are social boundaries that consciously or subconsciously that we don’t cross. Like if I’m feeling super-emotional and there are eight musicians in the room, there’s a good chance I’m not going to ugly-cry up on the conductor’s podium (laughs). But I did a lot of that here. Sometimes I was just physically exhausted from recording and it just got me, or a lyric hit me a certain way. You don’t hear my crying on the record because I would always clear my sinuses and sing it again, because that doesn’t sound good. But I think you hear the emotion behind it, and I hope that people hear the truth behind it.
I’ve done a few interviews so far and a couple of people have said, ‘I really like this,’ or ‘This meant something to me’ or ‘That song made my cry.’ That’s huge. Because I’m at the point in my life where, if people hate the record that’s cool. If they give it a bad review, I really don’t care. It is what it is. But if somebody tells me they were moved by this, Oh my gosh, that’s it for me. Because I could have kept this for myself and done it for me. But the reason I released it is I wanted to share it. If it has an impact on somebody, that is an immeasurable gift for which I am so, so grateful.
Let me tell you that I’m not the greatest fan of Harry Connick Jr. I probably still am not. But there’s something about this album that for one reason or another, resonates and speaks. Alone With My Faith isn’t the most flamboyant album nor the biggest or grandiose; but there’s raw emotion and honesty here. Isn’t that what you would want the most from a worship album? And what better way to connect with this release than listen to this on Good Friday? Need I say more? How about sit and contemplate and reflect upon God’s goodness while listening to this release?
3 songs to listen to: God And My Gospel, All These Miracles, Thank You For Waiting (For Me)
RIYL: Michael Buble, Crowder, Gaither Vocal Band, Chris Tomlin, CeCe Winans, Jason Crabb