Stone Table Records
Release Date: April 29th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
JJ Heller– I Dream of You (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
- I Dream Of You
- Big World, Baby
- When I’m With You
- I Know You Will
- The Sun Will Rise
- Keep You Safe
- I Get to Be The One
- Take It With Me
- Sailing the Sugar Sea
- Boat Song
Famous for her songs like “Control”, “What Love Really Means”, “Who You Are”, “Redemption” and “Boat Song”, Jennifer Judy (JJ) Heller has been around the music industry for a while, starting in 2006 and creating a following that places her in an acoustic/folk/pop genre. And while up until this point the genre has worked for JJ (with many of her albums being critically and powerfully loved and accepted by fans and reviewers alike), JJ Heller’s sound has changed for her 2014 album, this time a collection of songs for her children- a lullaby album if you will. While I myself am not necessarily as keen as the next person on lullaby music as my first choice, JJ’s new album I Dream of You is a great album to listen to if you want to reflect to it either at home, or in the car on long drives.
A great detour from all the radio pop and rock that has been playing in our cars and in our homes, JJ has been able to craft 12 songs, some newly written, others older re-recordings; and while most of them are musically subdued (which is exactly what lullabies ought to be), JJ’s great song-writing style and the ability to bring the poignancy of each song to the fore, is what makes I Dream of You to be one of the most reflective and lyrically enjoyable albums of the year. As I am reminded that just as we sing these songs of love to our children (or our parents sing them to us when we were little), God sings over us with His love, and we have a glimpse into the joy and love felt by the Father over us, as much and more than how much we feel for the ones in our lives we care about, children and parents alike.
Nothing like any JJ album before, I Dream of You’s purpose of being an album to listen to with children as we are reminded of how much we love them as much as Christ loves us, is fulfilled within these 12 tracks. While at times I felt like the album was putting me to sleep (that’s what lullabies ought to do right?), JJ’s comforting voice and heartfelt lyrics continue to remain the anchor of many of the songs on the album. Originally on When I’m With You and Deeper, JJ’s acoustic version of “When I’m With You” still carries the poignancy and weight of the original, as we hear JJ relay to her loved ones that ‘…I could never count all the ways that you change me, baby, every day the sky is a deeper shade of blue when I’m with you…’, a moment where we can’t help but enjoy the feeling of grace and love as we realise that Christ also sings this comforting phrase over us as much as we sing it over people we love. With hand claps, a piano riff, and an overall melody similarity to Laura Cooksey’s “Here We Go”, JJ has given us a great song to enjoy, even though it’s the shortest track on the album (2:28).
“I Dream of You”, the title track, starts off with great fashion with a powerful piano riff as JJ offers her encouraging words to her children to dream of her while they sleep as she dreams of them, and while that song doesn’t directly impact upon myself or even speak about God or Christ, the song still ministers to many parents around the world. As we are given a song to sing to the children of the world, we understand that the love we have for them is infinitely shown by Christ to us each day we live our lives. The acoustic folk atmosphere brings to life “Big World Baby”, a nearly three minute comforter that on the surface reminds children that their parents will be their comforters in the big world they are about to step into, while delving deeper, it reminds us all that Christ will be there for us in any circumstance. As JJ reminds her own children that ‘…you’re not too small to do great things…’, I can rest knowing the Christ also sings this over us.
JJ also comforts her children in “Lullaby”, the album 3:23 ender where she invites the piano to take centre stage in a song where they are to be able to dream about lovely things and be reminded that ‘…this is your lullaby, the love of God is evident in the miracle of you…’, and uses the song “Keep You Safe” to give her children a reason to not ‘…don’t be afraid, remember I made a promise to keep you safe…’ in a piano and strings prominent song that ought to place every child in a realm of calmness and relaxation. “I Get to be the One” is a song of thankfulness from a parent to a child as JJ counts herself blessed to be ‘…the one through birthdays and broken bones, I’ll be there to watch you grow…’ through all the light acoustics and electric guitar, while “Daydream”, a piano only track, evokes a sense of adventure as JJ encourages her loved one (either her husband or children) to daydream with her. A song for all of us to dream and wish and hope for things outside the norm and comfortable, “Daydream” presents the whole album in a way for us to move from the ‘normal’ to the unexpected and exciting with God’s faith in us being the fuel for us to make the inward changes necessary.
“Take it With Me” is arguably the most unique song musically as we hear light electronic sounds bring a theme of taking the most precious things with us when we leave for new adventures at different points in our lives, and both “The Sun Will Rise” and “I Know You Will” use acoustics and light keyboards (and JJ’s powerful voice) to provide us with anticipation and perspective, and assurance respectively. Songs that’ll hopefully impact us all when we hear that ‘…the sun will rise however long the night…’ (“The Sun Will Rise”), and hope in the poignant words of how ‘…love sings louder than the darkness, let the light shine in…’ (“I Know You Will”); the album finishes with a few fun-filled tracks in “Sailing the Sugar Sea” and “Boat Song”, both songs portraying metaphors of seas, oceans, travel, excitement and hope as we are encouraged in both of them (along with JJ’s children) to rest knowing that our loved ones are championing on behalf of us during this life.
‘…writing lullabies was refreshing and freeing. I needed a break from putting pressure on myself to write a song that would be deeply moving and life-changing for someone in a spiritual sense. In a way, it was therapeutic. To write pretty songs about love was just what I needed…’ JJ Heller has always been a great storyteller in her music, and while I myself haven’t had the pleasure to enjoy much of her music lately (because of all the new songs on radio and more pop/rock/worship artists I regularly enjoy on a more regular basis), what I have heard of JJ is nothing less than great, and this album, though a lullaby one, is no exception as well. While not my first call if I want to place an album on, it is nevertheless a great one if you want to relax, or if you are a fan of similar artists like Audrey Assad, Sara Groves or Jason Gray.
3 songs to listen to: When I’m With You, The Sun Will Rise, I Know You Will
RIYL: Audrey Assad, Jason Gray, Jason Castro, Sarah Groves