Release Date: March 17th 2017
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
Kerrie Roberts– Boundless (iTunes/Amazon mp3)
- Life in the Name
- Hold On To You
- Echo of the Ages
- By Your Grace
- True North
- Nothing But the Blood
- Where My Heart Belongs
- The Answer
There are artists that are popular, whose songs are repeated on the radio again and again. Artists like Francesca Battistelli, Plumb, Lauren Daigle, Natalie Grant, Mandisa, Britt Nicole and Meredith Andrews have all had songs on the radio throughout the last few years, and if you could ask anyone who is a fan of K-Love or Air1, who their favourite female artist is currently, I could almost guarantee that most of their answers would come from any one of these artists above. Not that there’s anything wrong with the talent and the songs themselves from these artists, but herein lies the point- independent artists, especially female independent artists, sadly aren’t as recognised and respected as they should. Especially those, like Kerrie Roberts (and Audrey Assad for that matter), who started off signed to a label, and then partway through her career, moved off to become an independent artist, delivering songs of a similar, if not a greater, quality compared to songs recorded and released prior to being independent.
So, at this moment, Kerrie is one of my favourite female CCM artists, maybe, if you look at her whole music catalogue, maybe even within the top 5 female artists (Christian or otherwise), ever! Known in both mainstream and Christian circles for her crossover hit “Rescue Me”, CCM/indie singer/songwriter Kerrie Roberts continues to impress as the years roll by, starting off with her profound and impactful self-titled debut album on Reunion Records, where her chart-topping and poignant songs spawned, from “No Matter What”, “Keep Breathing” and “Saviour to Me”, to “Outcast”, “Unstoppable” (that was used as the theme song for American Idol in the 2011 season) and “Beautiful For Me”. 6 years, 1 more studio album (Time For the Show), 1 Christmas EP (Thank You Child), and two more EP’s (Once Upon a Time EP, My Heart’s Lifted EP) later; we see Kerrie impart to us another full length album, her first in 4 years. Boundless, while not as polished and refined as many of the label produced albums, need not to be so- there’s something unique and different that comes along with albums being created with such a raw and slight ‘unpolished’ element to it. And that ought not to be a criticism about Boundless at all, in fact, that is why I love this album, because it isn’t as ‘clean’ and ‘clinical’ as many albums, CCM or any other genre.
Kerrie has unveiled hit after hit since “No Matter What”, more recently on her 2014 EP, songs like “My Heart’s Lifted” and “Come Back to Life” have been songs that have been impacting listeners for quite some time. Kerrie’s powerful vocals alone is a great reason for anyone to check out her music, and with the release of Boundless on March 17th, Kerrie continues to show us that being an indie artist doesn’t necessarily mean a lacklustre effort, with her new material equally as enjoyable, poignant and heartfelt as her previous songs under Reunion Records. One of the most underrated female CCM artists within the last few years (alongside others like Lindsay McCaul, Charmaine, Laura Story, Dara Maclean and Moriah Peters); Kerrie’s heart for creating melodies that are both enjoyable, and inspiring with an edifying message, can be shown in her 10 new songs, some of the best that Kerrie has created throughout her career so far!
While the album virtually has no publicity (the album is on pre-sale from Friday 10th March, a week before it releases to iTunes), meaning that no first single has been picked out prior to the album release in less than a week’s time, what Boundless nevertheless is, is a collection of songs full of heart, soul and emotion as Kerrie delivers some of the greatest indie-pop-worship I’ve heard since Jessa Anderson’s Whole way back in 2014. Since I really don’t know what the first radio single is, the structure that I normally use to write album reviews has been shattered a bit. Never fear though, I’ll use plan B…discuss about the song that I was drawn to the most when hearing this album (usually the songs that I seem to like on first listen don’t really get to be picked as singles). So what was the first standout for me? The first track on the album of course.
“Life in the Name” starts off with a slight bass reverb as Kerrie launches into powerful declarations, in how there’s ‘…hope, there’s heart, we remember who we are, there’s life in the name, life in the name, we’re free to fly, no fear of earth or sky, there’s life in the name, life in the name of Jesus…’, words that we can really live by rather than just sing and travel through the motions of. While at times the song can fall into slight repetition in repeating the phrase ‘…there’s life in the name…’, the song itself has a fervent passion and a moment of realisation, that there’s no life that we can have other than in the name of Christ Jesus. That He and He alone is the One who can impact such a life as ours. As the song brings about a crescendo full of backing vocals and a choir to bring the rousing anthem to life, we are able to praise alongside Kerrie, to a song that is one of my favourites, though very much repetitive (and radio friendly, almost as if the song was tailored to be a single in the future), on Boundless.
“Rooted” is another song that is a standout of mine on the album, and a direct opposite musically to “Life in the Name”. Heavily keyboard based, this piano-ballad reminds me so much of other ballads from albums past, like “Keep Breathing”, “Love Came Down”, “Sing Glory”, “In Your Sight” and “Like Jesus Loves”- and it is in these ballads that Kerrie’s vocals shine and shine gloriously. In fact, aside from Lauren Daigle and Natalie Grant, Kerrie is vocally one of the most impressive out of any female artist currently active within the CCM community- which is saying a lot. “Rooted” is a song that reminds us all to be rooted in Christ Jesus, that He is the firm foundation of our faith. A song thematically similar to Building 429’s “We Won’t Be Shaken”, “Rooted” is “In Your Sight” Pt 2 musically- which isn’t a bad thing. In fact, Boundless, if anything, has a lack of reflective melodies compared to albums past, but that doesn’t really matter- Kerrie’s heart and passion that oozes through each song makes up for the disparity between upbeat songs and emotive and ballad ones.
Throughout the rest of the album, we are blessed to hear a variety of musical genres with the same enthusiasm in each track, as Kerrie imparts to us 8 other reasons why she is quite possibly one of the most underrated independent artists currently active today. “Echo of the Ages”, clocking it at 3:37, is one of the most worshipful melodies Kerrie has recorded, with light acoustics and a keyboard presence highlighting the vocal power Kerrie has, and how with passion and vigour, we are met with a poignant chorus, that the ‘…echo of the ages, resounds before Your throne, glory oh glory be to You and You alone, our song of worship rises with the saints who gone before, the echo of the ages, holy is the Lord…’; while the worship continues with the hymn cover of “Nothing But the Blood”- a song that, while standard (Kerrie doesn’t add any new verses or take anything away, the song sticks to the formula and script we have come to know over the years), still presents a powerful moment of adoration and worship, reminding us that even a song as timeless as “Nothing But the Blood” can still have an impact today. Title track “Boundless” features a repetitive (but equally mesmerising) musical backdrop that reminds me of synths or even Nintendo 64 sounds as Kerrie delivers a powerful performance as ever, presenting the truth that God’s love and affection for us knows no bounds, that He is indeed boundless in whatever He longs to pour on each one of us; while songs like “The Answer” and “Where My Heart Belongs” delve into territories Kerrie hasn’t travelled before- the former being a track where Kerrie asks a lot of philosophical questions, and then reiterates to us all that Jesus is the answer to all of them, and the latter a quasi-hymn written by Kerrie to present a powerful and personal ballad, of where she places her heart on a daily basis.
“Hold Onto You”, another radio friendly track (purely on the basis that it has more repetitive phrases in the track, even more so than “Life in the Name”!), is fun to dance to and even more enjoyable to hear the theme and heart behind the track, and how even though a song like this can be musically and even lyrically ‘simple’, it’s message and theme can run deep- “Hold Onto You” is a song that speaks about how because God hold’s onto us in every moment, we can hold onto Him in light of that- that because we know Him to be faithful and true in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, we can place our trust in Him, knowing that He will come through for us in the end. Pretty deep and amazing right? “By Your Grace” continues along a similar theme, presenting a heavy keyboard presence and a light acoustic undertone as a message comfort and hope is presented. It is when we realise that it is by His grace that everything in our lives that is not of Him is broken, and that whatever we have in our circumstances will be revealed and realised by ourselves that it was used for our good and His glory, that we can truly live like we’re not weighed down by whatever troubles are on our minds. “True North”, though only standing at 3:24, is another favourite of mine, as hand claps and riveting electric guitar riffs make the song sound like it was taken straight from the 1980/90s (which isn’t a bad thing) as the melody presents a relatable and straight forward theme without dancing around and around- that God is our true north and that there’s no other like Him. Simple. The fact. Period. Sometimes songs can be more theological than they need to be, and I’m happy that such a song like “True North” can present such a much-needed message for the world today- that as we continue to realise the wonder and beauty of God, we can sing along Kerrie the heartfelt words of the chorus, that You’re my ‘…true north, You give my life direction, You’re my true north, Your heart is my obsession, and wherever You lead me, I am following my true north…’
While it has been 2 years and a bit between Boundless and her previous EP My Heart’s Lifted, Kerrie’s first full length independent release is quite a feat, and one that continues to showcase her heart for creating music with lifelong value and emotion. While not necessarily as publicised now compared to before when she was on Reunion Records, Boundless continues to show us that you not need a label to be successful. With powerful truths spoken into songs that have a pop/worship edge, this set of 10 songs are sure to bless anyone who loves similar artists like Moriah Peters, Britt Nicole, Natalie Grant or Lindsay McCaul. Well done Kerrie for such a splendid effort, and one that’ll certainly make this album a standout in March 2017!
3 songs to listen to: Rooted, Life in the Name, True North
RIYL: Lindsay McCaul, Charmaine, Laura Story, Dara Maclean, Moriah Peters