Fair Trade Services
Release Date: February 5th 2016
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Silver In Stone
- Dead Man Walking (feat. Ellie Holcomb)
- Everything I Need
- Run Wild
- Love Stands Tall
- Raining Pouring
Audio Adrenaline, Hawk Nelson, Phil Wickham, Mark Schultz, Sara Groves, The Afters, Citizen Way, Newsboys, MercyMe, Laura Story, Phillips Craig And Dean…Fair Trade Services currently have a pretty musically and lyrically diverse artist roster. With many of these aforementioned artists releasing albums that were (and are) much loved by critics and listeners, as well as critically acclaimed and popular; it’s time for yet another previously independent singer/songwriter to join the ranks of being a signed artist. John Tibbs, who previously toured with the Newsboys in 2015 on their “We Believe…God’s Not Dead Tour”; has joined the Fair Trade Services family, and finally unveiled his debut album this week, titled Dead Man Walking, as a follow-up to his 5 song EP of the same name, which released late last year. With 5 songs from the EP, as well as 5 completely brand new rock/worship anthems; let’s dive in to see how John’s personal and heartfelt music feels and sounds like, and whether listeners can, and will, resonate with any of the material. Personally I reckon fans of artists like Aaron Gillespie, Kutless, and Jeremy Camp would love John’s music, but let’s see what all of you think as well!
Out of the 5 recognisable tracks, from the EP released way back in October last year, John starts off with the guitar led energetic rocker “Silver In Stone”, where he unequivocally and passionately creates a semi country mid-tempo ballad, with purposeful vocals that God is with him always, moulding and shaping us to be more like Him. Encouraging us that ‘…every time it seems impossible, but You still find a way to walk me through the darkest night…’, John relays that God is reliable, can be trusted, and that He can make something beautiful out of ashes and out of something not that beautiful. With the metaphor of the song seemingly could be about how the legendary King Arthur pulled the sword from the stone, and how God can pull the best parts of our life, separating them from the rubble; John has recorded a brilliant melody, and a well thought out album opener, setting the tone for the rest of the album.
The weirdly titled “Abraham”, driven by keys and vibrant electric guitar is another mid-tempo rocker at heart, as John fervently outlines how the God of Abraham is all we need to live, and it is through Him, and only through Him that we are saved, reminding us that ‘…it’s not where you been, it’s not what your eyes have seen, it’s not who you are or what you’re becoming…it’s the grace of God who makes this fallen place whole…’. John earnestly shows us that only God can restore us into the people He wants us to be, while the hymn like mid-tempo keys led ballad and title track “Dead Man Walking”, originally written by Erik Nieder, and featuring Ellie Holcomb on backing vocals, is a personal favourite of mine, as both vocalists remind us of Jesus’ saving blood, death and resurrection, and what that means for how we live this life on earth. As we are presented with the notion that we are dead men and women, walking through life without a purpose, until we meet Jesus and become alive; John’s vibrant melody is sure to go big on radio this year and next year.
The final two melodies already previously recorded and released are “Run Wild” and “Love Stands Tall”. Though I originally thought the former was a cover of for KING & COUNTRY’s smash hit from last year, “Run Wild”, a guitar led synth driven 80’s themed danceable anthem is in fact an original song, with the song highlighting to us and asking God to run wild in our souls, and ignite a passion in us so big and large that we cannot help but be on fire for Jesus, spreading His love; while “Love Stands Tall” is a modern retelling of 1 Corinthians 13, where John eloquently reminds us in the chorus that true love means ‘…to rise above it all, swim out in the deep, climb up any mountain even when it’s steep, surrender all my weakness, give You all my faults…’. A vivid description of all of God’s unending and brilliant qualities, we are reassured that God isn’t unforgiving, hateful, judgemental or exacting, but rather His love is relentless, and infinite- when we doubt or are in a tight spot, God is there.
The reliance of God during the tough times and the ever present truth of God bringing hope and meaning into our lives is what is also fleshed out in the remainder of the tracks. “Anchor” delves into the notion of God never leaving us alone whenever we venture out into the great unknown, because He is the great anchor so to speak, with the folk/rock banjo led mid-tempo melody brilliantly executed, with Jillian Edwards shining on backing vocals. Similarly, the electric guitar led high octane “Burn” emphasises on John’s immense faith for our Maker, and carries on from “Anchor”, as he eloquently announces that He would burn for God and be on fire for Him, because of the good things He’s done, even in the face of adversary.
John passionately reiterates his need for God and no one else, further in the guitar and piano led ballad “Everything I Need”, the most CCM song on the album, singing out that ‘…I will tell the mountain to be cast into the sea, I will see You in the oceans roar and know Your perfect peace, as I cry out from the desert, living waters rise in me, no I will not fear, You are everything I need…’, while John creatively uses the imagery of water in “Raining Pouring” to pray to God to send revival across the world, changing lives through the ‘rain’ of His presence, similar in theme to John Waller’s “Rain”, as we worship God unbridled without any reservation. The final melody on this musically diverse and lyrically challenging debut album is “Hope”, which provides…you guessed it- hope! John honestly and emotionally delivers what I think is one of the most inspiring songs of the year thus far, reassuring us that ‘…we have a reason to live, we have a promise of home, cause You carried our cross and you stood in our place, and we have a reason to hope…’, which in my opinion is why we can know that Jesus is reliable and dependable. Because of the cross and the resurrection. That’s why He can be relied upon, and John Tibbs’ emphatic and hard hitting album closer, and album overall, which encapsulates the love of God and our love for Him quite nicely, is sure to leave a mark on CCM and worship industries alike.
Produced by Ben Shive, John Tibbs’ debut full length album has certainly lived up to the expectations placed upon it by the impressive EP, even though 5 songs are the same. Definitely having me eager in anticipation for John’s future projects, John’s presence and exposure to the CCM market this upcoming year is sure to be a good thing indeed, as he ministers to Christians and non-Christians alike with his honesty and relatable lyrics. So, are you intrigued by Dead Man Walking? Are you going to listen to John Tibbs’ music purely because you love Erik Nieder’s original version? I would definitely encourage you to check out John’s music, and I hope and pray you like the album, as John’s music is some of the most personal and emotional songs I have heard in a long time!
3 songs to listen to: Dead Man Walking, Love Stands Tall, Hope
RIYL: Aaron Gillespie, Kutless, Jeremy Camp, Matthew West