Release Date: June 10th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
Kim Dexter– Reaching (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
- Be With You Now
- We Lift Our Eyes
- Pour Out Your Love
- Here to Save
- Our Souls Cry (feat. Jason Dunn)
- Be Thou My Vision
- In This New Year
‘…Reaching is more of a Worship project than anything I have done in the past, yet is still revealing of what God has been doing in my life. I perform a lot of concerts, lead worship at a lot of churches and also sing and speak at women’s conferences and retreats, so this album really has songs for all of those communities…’ Kim Dexter– former lead singer of 1990s CCM/pop group Mayfair Laundry (another band I hadn’t heard of until I researched for writing this album review…shows you how insular I was in listening to CCM music back then); now solo artist, has just released her second album, simply titled Reaching. 8 years between albums, Kim’s renewed sense of Christ has led her to deliver some of the best indie worship songs of 2014 so far, with the piano as the staple musical instrument throughout the whole set of 10 tracks.
Born and raised in Pheonix, Arizona; Kim has always had a passion, flair, heart and talent for worship, music and providing hope and comfort through that medium- which is exactly what Reaching is, as we are reminded that ‘…hosanna, You are with us, by Your grace, You are here to save…’ (‘Here to Save’). With both Mayfair Laundry and her solo career leading her to open for artists like Steven Curtis Chapman, Switchfoot, and Third Day, as well as Kim writing songs for Avalon’s Jody McBrayer, Nicole C. Mullen and Bryan Duncan; it is with these fun and interesting facts that Reaching will be heard with much intrigue and anticipation, making this album a standout in June 2014.
The first song on the album, “Be With You Now” is a fast-paced electric guitar driven track that expounds on the theme of God being with us despite and in spite of ourselves, as Kim declares powerfully that ‘…I wanna be with You, be with You now…’. A plea we all ought to consider as we see in amazement the lengths that God orchestrated for us to be reconciled back to Himself; Kim’s powerful vocals that’s resemblant of artists like Kim Walker-Smith and Amy Grant, is enough for this first track to stand tall and be a great introduction to an album full of great worshipful songs and melodies suited to be introduced into the church (sooner than later). Light electric guitars, reverbing keyboards and a slower-paced hauntingly refreshing light guitar effects bring “We Lift Your Eyes” to life in this CCM-esque melody that encourages us all to ‘…lift our eyes to heaven, we lift our eyes to You, where our help comes from…’ and is a nice change of pace in relation to the fast-paced opening track. A song that is a fitting choice for a second single (following first single “Here to Save”), the easy-to-learn chorus and the radio friendly-ness of the song is just what Reaching needs for success within the CCM/worship industry.
“Here to Save”, first single on the album, is again another standout, as Kim uses the keyboards in the foreground to tell us a story of God’s faithfulness regardless of whether we feel He is faithful in the moment. The fervent declaration of how ‘…Your faithfulness remains, Your love from age to age, for all who call Your name, You are here to save…’ is something we all need to cling to, and as we hear Kim cry out, amongst the bells, guitars, backing vocals, and Kim’s enthusiasm; we are able to bask in the knowledge that God saves us time and again, even when we may not necessarily deserve it- which is definitely worthy of being declared. The instruments take a back seat in the title track, with poignant lyrics becoming a point of enjoyment and reflection as Kim vocally asserts that God reaches down to us as much as we reach for Him, meditating on the truth that ‘…I have found myself in You, embraced in the arms of love…how strong, how deep your love for me…You are with me…’
Having an anthemic quality about it, “Reaching” moves into “Pour Out Your Love”, the most subdued track on the album. While this can be a negative point on the album (that the song doesn’t carry with it the sense of exuberance and excitement as songs previously); the message still rings true, asking God to pour out His Spirit and love on us as we cry ‘…hallelujah, we adore You, we won’t forget the pain You’ve borne…’ Reflectiveness is also the front focus in the reimagined and re-recorded hymn “Be Thou My Vision” (with hand claps, light keyboards, glockenspiels, and light percussion), a song that Kim declares with light electronic keyboards effects. A song that is one of my favourite hymns of all time, the song isn’t that (and thus could fall in the similar trap “Pour Out Your Love” moves into)- yet Kim is still great vocally, and the song nevertheless has some great merit- asking the Lord to be our vision when we need Him the most.
Acoustics drive the nearly five minute ‘happy-go-lucky’ “Freedom”, as Kim asserts of her freedom in Christ, that ‘…this is my freedom, this is my living with my heart alive with wonder…’; while “In This New Year” speaks all about new beginnings and being able to start afresh and again without the past hanging over us- a song fit for New Year’s Eve’s around the world as we all long for us to be more connected and in relationship with God than years previously. Ending with “Remain”, a song with powerful emotion as Kim, along with light electronic effects, describes a song that, according to Kim; ‘…alludes to shackles, regrets and sorrows, but every day is a new day and I can reach forward to what lies ahead because God has so much for us…’; a song that stands out (even to people who may not have listened to Kim or even Mayfair Laundry) is “Our Souls Cry Out”, a duet with ex-Hawk Nelson frontman Jason Dunn. One of the most worshipful songs on the album, Kim and Jason declare out the poignant truths of how ‘…I turn my eyes to Jesus, and the fear just fades away, sing this song of angels, holy Lord, we need You here…’, with Jason in particular singing something that brings out his vulnerability and powerful vocals, compared to something he would sing (fast upbeat pop-punk when he has lead singer of Hawk Nelson).
Reaching, though independent, is just as needed, enjoyed, beautifully crafted and emotively sung, compared to label backed projects. Never hearing about Kim Dexter until listening to this album, Kim’s fervent passion to create worship melodies has succeeded in Reaching, so much so I have placed this album as one of my favourite indie worship albums of the year so far, since John Waller’s Life is a Gift. Poignant, poetic, prolific, powerful and personable, Kim’s talent in creating songs that speak to our souls is evident within these 10 tracks. While some songs on the album can be memorable as others are seemingly and unfortunately forgettable, Kim’s effort ought to be congratulated, as one of the most enjoyable indie albums since Brett Younker’s Burning in My Soul EP. Well done Kim for such an inspired and enjoyable album to hear!
3 songs to listen to: Our Souls Cry Out, Reaching, Here to Save
RIYL: Amy Grant, Jesus Culture, Nicole C. Mullen, Audrey Assad