Release Date: August 10th 2015
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Great I Am
- Find You
- The Anthem
- Amazing Grace
Reminding me musically and vocally of MercyMe and Sidewalk Prophets, JJ Weeks Band has unveiled their brand new EP Hal-le-lu-jah this week, an independent worship project, a follow-up to their debut album All Over The World. It’s been 2 and a half years since Inpop Records artist JJ Weeks Band released any new material, and since that time, the band has kept quite a low profile, until this week when they surprised everyone and announced their EP last week releasing in a week’s time. The band are not on a label anymore, so how does this help or hinder the quality of their new music?
I first heard of JJ Weeks Band from Colton Dixon’s song “Let Them See You” which was the only cover from Colton’s 2013 debut album, and written by JJ Weeks. Then I was intrigued and listened to JJ Weeks Band’s hit single “Is It Ever”, and immediately I drew parallels with Chris Sligh, Chris Daughtry and Michael Farren of Pocket Full Of Rocks vocally, as well as Mark Hall of Casting Crowns and Bart Millard of MercyMe. JJ Weeks, Robbie Fritz, Dave Hart and Cody Preston have been a band for 3 independent records already, and now, with the quartet from Macon, GA already having released their Inpop Records debut All Over The World; they are ready to take the world by storm with their new independent worship record. One of my favourite worship EP’s this year along with For All Seasons and Zealand Worship; JJ Weeks Band is sure to be successful in the years’ ahead as an independent band again. With these 5 poignant and honest melodies, 3 of them being covers, the band are sure to gain popularity and accolades from critics and listeners alike.
JJ and his friends start off with the powerful and inspiring cover “Great I Am”, originally written and recorded by Jared Anderson, and also covered by Julissa and Phillips Craig And Dean. The perfect way to start an impressive EP, “Great I Am” delivers the theme of proclaiming that Jesus is Lord, where JJ passionately sings out across vibrant acoustic guitars, with optimism and positivity. One of my favourite lyrics in this smash hit worship anthem is when JJ authoritatively highlights that ‘…I wanna be near, near to Your heart, loving the world, hating the dark, I wanna see dry bones living again, singing as one…’. Stepping right into the deep end lyrically, and delivering no-nonsense words in the bridge that is not sugar-coated at all; “Great I Am” breathes an epic and majestic feel as JJ and co. bring the song to life in another different perspective. It is great to sit and reflect on all the good things God has done for us; and as Christ reigns over all, we can truly cry out ‘…hallelujah, holy, holy, God almighty, the great I AM…’, to the God who is in control of every aspect of our lives! The original melody “Find You”, a potential CCM/pop radio single, led by the piano is next, where JJ ardently expresses that we can find God everywhere and anywhere we look, reminding us that ‘…Lord I find You in the day to day…in the breathe I breathe…in forgiveness, in the things that don’t make sense, when my heart breaks again, that’s where I find You…’. But while this song and the album opener are quite competent, the last three songs bring the EP to a whole other level!
“Forever”, “The Anthem” and “Amazing Grace” are the final three songs, and are a live medley of sorts, as each song beautifully, professionally and seamlessly flow together as one big 15 minute epic and moving worship experience. The worship anthem “Forever”, written by Brian Johnson of Bethel Church and Kari Jobe, is expertly and skilfully driven by the piano and JJ’s distinct and inspiring voice, as well as swelling and rousing guitar later on in the song. Lyrically it’s easy to see why this track has had such an impact in the lives of many. Vividly and descriptively painting a picture of Jesus’ death and resurrection; our redemption story and also what heaven may look like, as the honest words of ‘…forever He is glorified, forever He is lifted high, forever He is risen, He is alive…’ ring out; I can’t help but echo and agree with JJ’s honest and emotional pleas and prayers! Musically the track hits all of the right chords as well, and this version is the best cover version I have heard (sorry Shane and Shane!).
With the penultimate track, the second act in this impressive medley being the original spontaneous free worship guitar led “The Anthem”, where JJ emphatically declares ‘…Hallelujah, You have won the victory, hallelujah, You have won it all for me, death could not hold You down, You are the risen King, seated in majesty, You are the risen King…’, the medley ends right where the EP starts- as a simple worship experience to God, praising Him simply because He is. The hymn “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” has really taken off and been considered as an epic modern hymn ever since Chris Tomlin recorded his version with an original chorus, yet JJ’s majestic and captivating version has me on the edge of my seat- that’s how powerful and engaging this version is. Essentially praising God because ‘…my chains are gone, I’ve been set free, my God, my Saviour has ransomed me…’, JJ has covered this song to perfection, and is a fitting way to end an EP that has its roots and heart based in worship. There’s just one more thing to do when we’ve listened to the EP. And that’s listen to it again, as it’s pretty good, and reminds us how much God deserves to be praised because of everything He’s done for us.
With every anthem and every track pointing to God as our Saviour, Redeemer and Healer; JJ Weeks Band have recorded a stellar sophomore album. No doubt they have a bright future ahead of them, and hopefully they can sign to the same label again or to another label, because the world needs to hear their music, as it’s full of inspiration and God breathed promises and assurances. With all 5 tracks standing tall amongst other impacting melodies this year, I could not think of a more lyrically relevant and honest batch of worship songs lately than this lot. A must for buying digitally or physically for people who want to be encouraged and uplifted; JJ Weeks Band’s Hal-le-lu-jah EP is definitely going to get the band noticed, and hopefully a Dove Award nomination or more. Well done to the quartet- I am definitely anticipating your next album in the future!
3 songs to listen to: Great I Am, Forever, The Anthem
RIYL: Casting Crowns, Sidewalk Prophets, Jared Anderson, Desperation Band, For A Season