Hope Darst – If The Lord Builds The House

Fair Trade Services

Release Date: November 4th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Hope Darst– If The Lord Builds The House (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. If The Lord Builds The House
  2. Breakthrough’s Coming
  3. Honey
  4. Never Walk Alone
  5. Give You The Glory (feat. David Leonard)
  6. Coming Back
  7. If The Lord Builds The House (feat. Jon Reddick)

Signed to Fair Trade Services in 2020, Hope Darst is a relatively newish artist. Yet she is also a veteran singer and songwriter as well! Am I confusing you? Well, you see, Hope has been a songwriter and worship leader for her home church The Belonging Co recently, but prior to that, she has been traveling the world for a great number of years- actually over a decade leading worship with Women of Faith, Every Nation Ministries, Christ for All Nations and many more organisations. In 2010 Hope even released a 4 song EP (featuring Hillsong Worship’s smash hit “You’ll Come”), which has now been removed from the internet (for reasons yet to be disclosed). In 2020, Hope dropped her Fair Trade Services label debut album Peace Be Still (which we reviewed here); yet in November last year, Hope returned with her follow-up release- the EP If The Lord Builds This House.

Written by Andrew Holt, Ethan Hulse, Jonathan Smith and Hope herself; the title track opens proceedings, with the melody speaking about letting Jesus Christ be the builder of our lives. A CCM, radio-friendly melody, and a track that will fit right at home on K-Love Radio; Hope delivers a solid melody, but a track that doesn’t really ‘wow’ me. It’s a song that speaks about building our foundation that is life on Jesus- and having Him as the basis for everything we believe in and having Jesus as our cornerstone and our main ethos of all that we do. However lyrically, there can be issue with some of the lyrics. As Hope boldly proclaims in the chorus that ‘…if the Lord builds the house, nobody can tear it down, when it’s built on His name, there’s nothing gonna shake this ground…’; could it be that she is advocating for a stress-free life and literally no dramas or issues whenever we put our faith in Jesus. Jesus has said countless times in the Bible that when we are Christians, life won’t be that easy. And as so…. Does this melody provide us a rosy-coloured outlook on life- an outlook that’s too positive and too optimistic? Food for thought, but generally, this melody is moving, inspiring and thought-provoking- and so Hope has overall delivered a song that speaks to the heart and to the soul. The EP closes with another version of this single (This time sung with Gotee Records artist Jon Reddick), and generally this melody is nonetheless inspiring and moving.

The rest of the songs from Hope on this EP may sound ‘standard’ musically- CCM-ish and the like; but lyrically and with a deeper listen, there’s plenty of gold nuggets to gain and eternal truths to glean. “Breakthrough’s Coming” is a gospel inspired Jesus Culture-like worship melody whereby Hope ardently and fervently relays to us all that we ‘…might feel like there is no hope, staring at a Jericho, but when Jesus shows up on the scene, you know somethings about to change…’, reminding us all that we can indeed call upon Jesus especially when we feel like there is no hope- because He will answer us- but perhaps not in the way that we expect. Similarly, “Honey” is another standout, with Hope essentially delivering to us a full-on worship song, as she powerfully and emphatically cries out that ‘…Your name to me is sweeter than honey, it’s all I need, more than enough, Jesus, You are the very air that I breathe…’; however the radio friendly piano ballad “Never Walk Alone” (with a ’radio-friendly’ track length of 3:33!) sadly misses the mark both musically and lyrically, with Hope singing out clichés plentiful, outlining in the most basic form that ‘…I’m a witness to Your faithfulness, in every storm, in every step, looking back never once did You let me go, and no matter what the future holds, You’ll work it for my good I know, You are faithful and I never walk alone…’. “Give You The Glory” features David Leonard on guest vocals, and is a vibrant, earnest, emotive, heartwarming and passionate piano led melody- simple lyrically but still poignant, that is by far the standout on this EP, as both vocalists declare that ‘…I give You the glory, all of the glory, I give You the glory, again and again, this praise isn’t for me, my worship is only to give You the glory, forever amen, forever amen…’. If The Lord Builds This House then ends with the reassuring, comforting, reflective, and contemplative ballad “Coming Back”, with Hope exuberantly relaying that she will always be running back to Jesus no matter what, and that ‘…when I have nothing left, I’ll give You everything, if only just a drop, I’ll still pour at Your feet, when I don’t have the strength, God, I know that You do, I’ll keep coming back to You…’.

It isn’t known whether Hope Darst will continue to write and sing songs as a solo artist beyond this new EP- is her second full length album coming soon? Or will she continue to be at the Belonging Co.? Only time will tell, but for now, definitely listen to Hope’s debut album as a whole, as well as this follow-up EP. Some songs on the 2020 debut album are skippable such as “Don’t Let Go” and “Start Over”, and some songs are far more enjoyable and biblically sound than others. However, on the whole, no doubt you’ll be blessed. And if you’ve first been introduced to Hope Darst from listening to “Peace Be Still” from Lauren Daigle, then…listen to this version on the debut! And when you’ve worn out that album, listen to If The Lord Builds This House. You’ll definitely gain something from this melody, and you’ll definitely be closer to God as a result as well! Well done Hope for much needed worship project, as well as your debut album! May God richly bless you with abundance in 2023 and beyond!

If The Lord Builds This House: I was studying the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis and really wanted to write a song about “building” our lives for God and His glory. Andrew [Holt] and I had a bridge idea that fit this theme and I really wanted to use it. At the end of 2021 during a writing retreat, we brought the bridge idea to Jonathan [Smith] and Ethan [Hulse] and asked them to help us finish the song. The outcome was the song you hear now. Along the way, it went through a few drafts and revisions before the song felt “done”, which even included letting go of that original bridge idea and writing a completely new bridge for the song. The first thing isn’t always the final thing, and that’s okay. Songwriting has been my greatest teacher in that area. Hearing all of the stories and testimonies from people who say this song has been so significant for them, makes all of the “work” we put into writing this song, really worth it!

Breakthrough’s Coming: Jason, Reuben and I got together to write for my project earlier this year. The morning of our write, I remembered a little idea I had voiced memo’d earlier in the week. It was a slow song I hoped could work for corporate worship. When we got together later that day, I played the voice memo for them. Jason grabbed his guitar and Reuben jumped on the piano and said “this is perfect for an uptempo song”. I was a bit surprised because I envisioned it being slow, but I knew it was one of those moments to really trust your co-writers. We leaned in and wrote the song in about 30-45 minutes, ha! And boy am I glad I trusted their instincts because this song turned out so much better uptempo than it ever would have the slow and I LOVE it! Jason you captured the production for this song perfectly! It’s for the church to sing and worship leaders to lead. Thank you for partnering with me to keep writing songs for the church, it’s such an honor to do it together! This song is a reminder that everywhere Jesus shows up something changes…hearts are healed, lives are saved, the lost come home, chains break and more. We purposely told stories from the Bible in this song that tell of moments when people couldn’t make things happen on their own. The blind getting sight, Jericho walls falling and dead men being raised because they show when Jesus shows up on the scene, everything changed. Jesus still holds that same power for you and me today. If you’re staring at a situation that feels impossible, just call on the name of Jesus! Whatever you need…hope, freedom, salvation, peace…Jesus is the answer for your breakthrough!

Honey: This song was written in December 2021 during a retreat with some of my best friends. Each morning I would share some things that were on my heart that I wanted to write about. It’s no surprise that 2020 & 2021 were hard years, and one of the things that I found steady and true was simply saying the name of Jesus when I didn’t know what else to say or do. There where days, when His name was the only prayer I could utter and that was enough. As I shared some of this with my friends, I said something along the lines of…”When everything tastes bitter, the name of Jesus is sweet like honey to my soul.” Thank You @miafieldes @andrewholt and @theaustindavis for catching my words and helping create this song. The three of you are so special to me and so is this song. A few months ago I was studying the word “Honey”. I didn’t know this when we wrote the song and to learn it now makes the song even more powerful to me. Honey has natural antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties. I can hydrate, reduce stress and fatigue and heal wounds and scars.” Which is also the same thing the name of Jesus does in our hearts, minds, bodies and lives. His name is powerful. It’s more than enough to supply all that I need and it truly is sweeter than Honey!

Never Walk Alone: Thank you @jesscatesmusic @tommyiceland @lizzie_viv for originally birthing this song and for so generously allowing me and Jonathan [Smith] to come alongside you as co-writers to really make it my life’s story. It’s been a beautiful journey to see it grow and evolve into what it is now. This one is deeply personally and special to me and Inhope to be singing it for a really long time! My desire is for this song to remind you of God’s faithfulness! He is always with you – even in the seasons when it doesn’t seem that way. Hindsight is a beautiful thing because inevitably you look back months or years later and see His footprint next to yours in the valleys and the wilderness. You see His fingerprints of goodness left on circumstances that only become clear when the dust settles. God will not leave you or let you go. He is with you and for you, always. He is faithful and good. And you Never. Walk. Alone!

Give You The Glory: First and foremost, thank you @davidleonardmusic for helping write, produce and sing on this song!! It has truly become one of my favorites. You are so gifted and working with you was a massive honor for me as a worship leader, songwriter and friend. Thank you for sharing your incredible gift with me! @ethanhulse thank you for continuing to share your incredible gift of string words and melodies together! It’s always a dream to work with you and this song is just another example of why! I’ll never forgot the moment the first line hit my ears…”I can’t take credit for breath in these lungs / My only boast is in the work You have done”. It was simple and true, but with all much conviction. I wept. Every time I sing this song, I still get emotional because it’s my manifesto, my reason for doing anything wrapped into this one song. It’s a prayer and a reminder. And to be honest, if I can live the words of this song out in my real life, it will be my testimony and true worship.

Coming Back: I could write a book on this song. Maybe I will one day. But for now just know this one is deeply personal and really special to me. @austindavis @sarahreevesmusic @thecaseybrown thank you for creating such a safe space for me to cry and be brutally honest last December. You let me process out loud that day and this song was born as a result. Austin started playing those cords, Sarah asked the right questions and Casey caught my words. You three are a dream team to work with. I love you all and I love this song!! Some seasons are hard. They require endurance and diligence when all you want to do is give up, but you don’t. Not because you have giant like strength or your a super Christian. No, you don’t give up because you have tasted and seen God’s goodness. So in the hardest moments you can’t forget what He has done and you can’t keep yourself from running to His feet and trusting He will provide what you don’t have or need. And you’ll keep waiting until His does because you know He is the only way through and the only way out of that valley or desert. I wrote this song about all of those feelings.

3 songs to listen to: If The Lord Builds The House, Give You The Glory, Coming Back

Score: 4.5/5

RIYL: Lauren Daigle, I AM THEY, All Sons & Daughters, Christy Nockels, Housefires, Kim Walker-Smith

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