Label Me Not
Release Date: November 25th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- O Come, O Come Emmanuel
- O Holy Night
- Mary Did You Know
- Of All the Places
- Silent Night (feat. John Waller Sr.)
John Waller has been around the music industry for quite some time. Signing to Reunion Records in 2007, his ability to create hits and powerful songs meant to minister to and heal people from whatever they’re going through, his songs like “Still Calls Me Son”, “While I’m Waiting”, “Our God Reigns Here”, “As for Me And My House”, as well as his newly recorded “Orphan” and “Life is a Gift”, have impacted people around the world with a sense of truth, honesty and heartfelt nature that John has been able to fill his songs with. With “While I’m Waiting” appearing in its entirety in the 2008 movie Fireproof (starring Kirk Cameron), John’s enthusiasm for the church and giving us songs that show us a hope and closeness to God through music has been one of the reasons why I reckon John’s one of the most underrated pop/contemporary CCM artists within the music industry currently.
Releasing his new studio album Life is a Gift in February and Worship While I’m Waiting in July, both with virtually no promotion on social media prior to releasing; this new Christmas EP, Silent Night, also received the same treatment- with no social media promotion, John’s new EP of both Christmas and familiar tracks have reminded us the beauty it sometimes is when an artist is spontaneous with each endeavour they undertake. The EP showcases some of John’s favourite Christmas songs, as well as a re-worked version of “Of All the Places”, a song that though not technically a Christmas melody, fits within the framework of Christmas quite well. Standing at 5 songs, the acoustic nature of these melodies encourages us that songs are much more than the instrumentations and musical arrangements, and that some of the most poignant and emotive melodies are the ones that are musically lacking. Having a great ability to infuse genres like CCM, pop, country, acoustic and worship all into one album, John performs these 5 songs with profound enthusiasm, fervent conviction and joy, making this EP one of my favourite Christmas offerings of 2014 so far!
With 4 carols and one reworked original melody, John’s enthusiasm and emotion that brings out some of the best moments within these Christmas carols is what makes John one of the most underrated singer/songwriters of the last few years. While unexpected, Silent Night EP is one of my favourite Christmas offerings from any artist this year. Starting with “O Come Emmanuel”, the light acoustics and eerie strings move into John’s stirring vocals as we see a man declare with fervent passion to God, asking for Him to ‘…come, o come Emmanuel…rejoice, shall come to thee, O Israel…’ Fitting for anyone who was living in Israel at that time or anyone who has strong affiliations with the country now for whatever reason, John brings the technique of changing pace midway through the song to his advantage as “O Come Emmanuel” becomes a great standout, with John giving me a fuller appreciation of the song in general.
“O Holy Night”, covered by probably everyone who’s everybody within the CCM industry (from Kari Jobe, Third Day, Newsboys and MercyMe, to Lincoln Brewster, Matthew West and Rend Collective), is once again covered, this time by John in his EP, and it is no less enjoyable and powerful as compared to other recently recorded versions. What can I say about this song that I haven’t said in other reviews already? One of my favourite Christmas songs, as well as worship songs, ever; you cannot not be moved when hearing this song, and John’s powerful string prominent version is no different.
“Mary Did You Know”, a song not necessarily heard or even covered as much (the only versions I’ve heard from CCM artists have been from Kutless and Meredith Andrews), is also a standout as John as one of the most least popular Christmas carols I know is delivered with such honesty and fervent praise. With the song presented as being one that is sung to Mary, mother of Christ as details emerge that ‘…your baby boy will give sight to the blind man…did you know that your baby boy has come to make us new, this child that you deliver, will soon deliver you?…’; “Mary Did You Know” is fast becoming a unique carol that is one of my favourites throughout these last few weeks and months.
“Silent Night” the last melody on the EP, is a powerful duet between John and his father John Waller Sr, and showcases a moment that is pleasant to hear- that a song can transcend generations and impact both the old and young; while the most enjoyable melody on the album is “Of All the Places”, originally from John’s 2009 album While I’m Waiting and given a children’s choir and string instruments to showcase a Christmas feeling. Similar to Casting Crowns’ “While You Were Sleeping” and how that melody was written with Christmas in mind, John’s “Of All The Places” was also written with this special day in mind. Singing about how Jesus was born in a manger of all the places that he could’ve been born into this world, this humble 5 year old melody is just as good now as it was when it originally released in 2009 as we are reminded that songs can easily fit for both the seasons of Christmas and the remainder of the year. A song that’ll hopefully impact listeners all year round, we are blessed with the fact that ‘…of all the places for deity to be, who would imagine that He would come to this place for me?…’
John Waller’s first Christmas EP is one to collect, treasure and cherish with these 5 melodies, with so much enthusiasm, fast becoming some of my favourite Christmas songs recorded in 2014 so far (alongside others from artists like 1 Girl Nation, Michael W. Smith and Rend Collective). Even though John started off his career signed to Provident Label Group, a major label, his indie presence, alongside others like Audrey Assad, Jars of Clay and Kerrie Roberts, is what has continued and will continue my support for him and his music. With heartfelt lyrics and vertical praise moments to bring out congregational worship, John’s heart for worship, family, adoption, hope and Christ is all evident within these 5 Christmas songs. It is the acoustic nature of not only this Christmas EP but also of his previous 9 song acoustic track-list, that makes John the quality singer/songwriter he is today, making the musical offering more poignant. Despite the lack of promotion, this EP has been a blessing to listen to. Well done John for such an inspired and enjoyable EP, and one that’ll encourage and inspire people to consider Christmas during this holiday and chaotic season.
3 songs to listen to: Mary Did You Know, Of All the Places, O Holy Night
RIYL: Jeremy Camp, Casting Crowns, Kutless, MercyMe