Reunion Records / Provident Label Group
Release Date: September 2nd 2022 [Before I Knew Jesus] / October 7th 2022 [How Can You Not]
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Before I Knew Jesus
- How Can You Not
Leanna Crawford would have to be one of my favourite new artists within the CCM realm over the last few years or so- up there with artists like Tasha Layton, Apollo LTD, Cochren & Co. and Pat Barrett, to name a few. Upon signing to Story House Collective / Provident Label Group in early 2020, and on the back of her successful (moderately) EP titled Crazy Beautiful You in 2018, this up-and-coming singer-songwriter has continued to impress and become an artist that’s certain to follow in the footsteps of people like Riley Clemmons, Hannah Kerr, and even Casting Crowns or Matthew West to becoming a mainstay in CCM in the upcoming months and even years ahead. Leanna continues to impart heartfelt songs to people listening- especially with the release of her second EP that dropped in May 2020, her first on a label. It has been a few years since I first discovered this young artist, and I can remember back then (in 2018), I knew that there was something about her music that made it intriguing and unique to listen to. Now in 2022, we see what Leanna has undertaken since- she’s been able to grow into an artist that is confident about who she is singing about, and one who’s not afraid to be a little quirky and weird, because it is often the different that impact people the most. Leanna is one such artist. And upon the success of songs like ‘Crazy Beautiful You’, ‘Write About it’ and ‘Prince Charming’ all those years ago, Leanna offered up 6 new songs from her self-titled label debut in May 2020. From that EP came standout singles like ‘Funeral’ and ‘Truth I’m Standing On’, alongside a poignant heartfelt duet with Jekalynn Carr, on a song titled ‘Mean Girls’. Now in 2022, Leanna’s unveiling new music again. With the exception of lone-single ‘What You Can’t Forget’ that was released in August 2021, Leanna is now offering up new music again in the form of two brand new singles- ‘Before I Knew Jesus’ and ‘How Can You Not’. Whether these two songs are just singles, or if they’re from a bigger project (EP, or album?) remains to be seen. Regardless, these two songs are nevertheless, heart-stirrers, and are both very much needed in this tense and pluralistic atmosphere and climate people are living in, today.
Unveiled at the beginning of September 2022; ‘Before I Knew Jesus’ chronicles the story of a persona (namely Leanna herself) who is showcasing who they were before Jesus and who they were after. It’s a testimony song, and a moment of public declaration as we the listeners know that Leanna herself is making a bold statement of her Christian faith, through song. Though the song itself doesn’t explicitly talk about anything about sin, death, separation from God, the grave, and His resurrection power and salvation through the way of Jesus dying on a cross (and rising again subsequently, 3 days later); the song does still talk about things that happen in a person’s life, as soon as you open up and allow God’s love, grace, and mercy to come flooding in. While I was slightly underwhelmed with the song itself (I would’ve preferred the track to have more of a ‘this is the gospel’ message, rather than one of feelings and personal experience), what I do commend the song for, is for allowing listeners a sense of space where they can share openly about their experiences pre and post Christ Jesus. Yes, I may have wanted the gospel a little more explicitly preached, but regardless, Leanna herself has done an excellent job in creating a song that is catchy, and a little thought-provoking too. As Leanna herself shares, ‘…this song is about God’s faithfulness in every single day of my life. I grew up in the church and at four years old asked Jesus into my heart. In every season since that day, God has met me in different ways, right where I am. I’ve seen the most evidence of His faithfulness over the past few years, especially when I moved to Nashville. I thought everything would be easy and quickly realized it wasn’t. I dealt with spiritual and mental attacks, I was comparing myself to others, and went through seasons of serious anxiety. But Jesus showed up every single day, and He continues to show me new areas of His faithfulness in my life and how much He loves me. I hope that when someone hears this song, if they’ve known Jesus for a long time or if it’s new, there is no going back to the day before Jesus…’ Leanna’s newest song ‘How Can You Not’ just released a couple of days ago, and together with ‘Before I Knew Jesus’, showcase a more ‘autobiographical’ slant that these new songs are going in the direction of- and that’s very good indeed. With Leanna offering us the story behind the song, and how it was something in her personal life, that allowed ‘How Can You Not’ to take place, we see how experiences from her of late, is now shaping the songs that she has written thus far. Maybe this new album will be her most personal and most honest, yet? The song itself speaks of how the world and everything in it, testifies and speaks to the Lord’s craftsmanship and handiwork, showing us His hand and His presence, on a macro global scale, as well as on a deep, personal level as well. Leanna herself has mentioned, that it was her dad who inspired the song- ‘…my dad inspired this song. My parents were visiting me in Nashville and my dad had never seen fireflies before. One night as we were walking, the field next to us lit up with thousands of fireflies. My dad saw all those fireflies and said, ‘How can you not see the Creator?’ Everywhere I look, I see the hand of God, and I’m reminded that He cares for me deeply. I hope you feel that today too…’
While these two songs released this year, are either part of a bigger project (album or EP) or just 2 standalone singles, what I do know is this- that Leanna’s songwriting and vulnerable style of singing is really one of her greatest qualities as a singer-songwriter, and the emotion shown through songs like ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘What You Can’t Forget’, certainly carries on to these two new songs, as well. And it is in light of Leanna’s self-titled EP, the re-recorded ‘Mean Girls’, her poignant and compelling track ‘What You Can’t Forget’, alongside her brand new songs ‘Before I Knew Jesus’ and ‘How Can You Not’, that I firmly believe that she’s quickly becoming a good role model for young people everywhere. Following in the footsteps of young artists like Hollyn and Riley Clemmons, and musically (and lyrically) reminding me of artists like Matthew West and Cimorelli; Leanna’s music is certain to become one of the artists that I’ll replay on Spotify and iTunes in the upcoming weeks and months ahead. Well done Leanna for these two heartfelt songs, hoping, and praying that the Lord uses either ‘Before I Knew Jesus’ or ‘How Can You Not’, to bring people healing, hope and comfort, especially now during such an uncertain time as this! Maybe a full length album in the future by Leanna? I hope so.
RIYL: Matthew West, Casting Crowns, Cimorelli, Riley Clemmons, Hannah Kerr, Francesca Battistelli