Release Date: July 31st 2020
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Freedom Found Me
- The Name That Saves
- My Hope is In the Blood
- Oh the Power (feat. Stephen McLeod)
- You’re Still God
- Everything is Possible
- Against The Odds
- Loved Me First
- Now to Jesus
- My Troubled Soul
Philippa Hanna is by far one of my favourite artists (solo artist or band) to come out of the U.K. region. Ever. Period. Alongside others like Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, Martin Smith of the now disbanded Delirious?, as well as the ever popular Rend Collective, Philippa’s music has been influencing my own life ever since her poignant and heartfelt ‘I Am Amazing’ that she recorded way back in 2011. Since such a date where she released her life-affirming and identity building anthem, she has continued to inspire many listeners around the world, from her humble beginnings with her albums Watching Me and Taste, to her momentual hits “Lighthouse”, “Hollywood” and “Stars Will Fall” from her 2013 offering Through the Woods, as well as songs like ‘Arrow’, ‘Even Now’, ‘Run to You’ and ‘Something Better’ from her 2016 album Speed of Light. About a year and a half after Speed of Light we saw Philippa unveil her first ever country/gospel album in Come Back Fighting, and she continued on with her songs that were delivered in a relatable way and a faith angle, all the while experimenting with new sounds and musical genres. Her 2017 album gave way the hits of ‘Off the Wagon’, ‘Getting on With Life’ and probably her most vulnerable mainstream-esque hit ‘The Hero’- each of these songs could’ve succeeded at mainstream radio if the stations had given these songs a chance. And now here we are in 2020. And a lot of things have happened for Philippa- she released a worship song with friend and worship leader Abby Eaton, ‘Now to Jesus’. She released a one-video-a-day blog series relaying people about topics dear to her heart and speaking about vulnerable issues in the world today. She embarked on countless tours alongside releasing another collaboration between herself and singer-songwriter/mental health activist, Lily-Jo – a song titled ‘Known’- that has a similar structure and thematic vibe to for KING AND COUNTRY’s ‘Priceless’, or even Tauren Wells’ ‘Known’ as well. And then Philippa was signed by Integrity Music, and what has resulted is the release of Stained-Glass Stories in July 2020.
‘…for me, I don’t really see Philippa as a worship artist. Yes, she’s a Christian, and yes she write songs about her faith and the faith aspect and journey, but I just can’t see Philippa release an out-and-out worship album, when her previous efforts have been leaning more towards the indie/folk/country/pop/roots era of the 2010s. Regardless, this is the label that signed her talents, and for what it’s worth, Philippa’s music still has staying power within the four walls of the church. Whether Philippa’s music (which will now have a more worshipful slant) will be as well received as the other worshipful acts of the UK (Matt Redman, Soul Survivor, Rend Collective, Martin Smith) remains to be seen, but what I will say is this- Philippa’s music has been instrumental in realising that there is still great music outside of the U S of A, and if this is where the Lord wants Philippa to be at this moment, then so be it. Philippa’s music has long been inspirational in my own life before, and these two songs, one released in early May and one released on this-coming Friday, are both songs of hope, encouragement, enjoyment, and joyous declaration…’ I wrote this above quote when I reviewed the songs ‘My Hope is in the Blood’ and ‘You’re Still God’- both them being unveiled to us in May 2020. And while I wrote at that time that I initially thought these two songs weren’t the greatest worship songs of 2020, but still enjoyable; what I will say with a further few months as a space removed from the release of the two songs, is that I’ve become much more welcomed to the idea of Philippa as a worship artist. Mind you, I reckon I was probably a little taken aback that an artist with more pop/country roots would sign to Integrity Music, and thus, I reckon I reviewed the songs ‘My Hope is in the Blood’ and ‘You’re Still God’ in that way. Nevertheless, what I will say now is this- ‘My Hope is in the Blood’ feels like a Hillsong melody in all the right ways possible. Hymn-like status? Check. A great theological depth? Check. Poetry and a way to draw listeners in, a la Hillsong? Check. Philippa’s new song is a great way to congregationally worship; and will also be on repeat on my iTunes playlist for the next few weeks and months, at least. ‘You’re Still God’ is another congregational worship song with a little bit of a hymn-like structure, as Philippa states of how God is still God irregardless of what is happening around the world, and what is happening in our lives. Though our lives can often seem like it’s another shakedown after another, we hear in this track that God still reigns and He’s still God regardless, and that fact and that fact alone ought to give us all resolve to worship and declare God’s goodness, even if we can’t see it or are unaware of how God is using our circumstances to shape us and mould us into men and women that He wants us to become.
Originally written and recorded as a duet way back in 2018 (and uploaded to youtube in the form of an acoustic video duet with fellow singer-songwriter Abby Eaton), ‘Now To Jesus’, re-recorded here as a solo track now, is still as emotive and poignant. The track itself is one of hope, encouragement, and enthusiasm, as this 5 minute modern-day-hymn is a reminder that songs of today can stil evoke a similar emotive presence and message that a lot of timeless hymn classics can do, songs from years upon years ago. Philippa’s heart has always been to encourage us on this journey, and whether it is through worship or through CCM/pop, it doesn’t really matter. ‘Now to Jesus’ is a great worship song that has made me think that I had heard the track before, even though I did not. I guess this melody that lays the groundwork to ‘Now to Jesus’ is a familiar one. Nevertheless, the song itself is one that is sure to impact whomever hears it- and with impactful chorus lyrics of how it is to be ‘…now to Jesus, Jesus who is able, able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine, we will give You all the glory, only You are worthy, worthy of all praise, worthy of all praise…’, what’s not to love about the song? Though it may not be as lyrically colourful and sophisticated as ‘Is He Worthy’ by Andrew Peterson, nor as musically unique and grand as Chris Tomlin’s ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’; nor does the song really need to be, at all. What makes ‘Now to Jesus’ appealing and heartfelt is its simplistic musical nature, and the ability of the song to rely more on vocal ability and emotion in the voice, rather than lyrical symbolism or even musical theatrics. It was one of my favourite worship songs when it was unveiled in 2018; and is still a great song even now.
Throughout the rest of the album, we see Philippa continue to give us songs that are fit for congregational worship, all the while allowing us to declare these songs in a personal worship space as well, as we’re reminded that we can worship just the same, by ourselves or in a group as well. ‘Freedom Found Me’, track #1, is a great reminder of what freedom in the form of Jesus Christ, did for us, and that it is not what we have done to make the situation better, but rather what He continuously does each and every time, to bring us back to Himself. The song is the most like what Philippa has delivered to us before, musically, and though I may still have a little bit of a qualm to Philippa doing an out-and-out worship album when everything up until now was CCM/pop/folk/country, I am still nevertheless reminded of how God can use something that we don’t expect, to remind us that a change in someone’s musical genre can be good sometimes. ‘Freedom Found Me’ gives us hope and comfort that we have been found, we don’t have to go do the finding, but rather, we come as we are, to a God who finds us in the state that we’re in, again and again and again. ‘The Name of Jesus’ is a song that artists like Phil Wickham, Matt Redman or Tim Hughes can undertake with such passion, flair, enthusiasm and grace, and while it can feel a little out of place coming from Philippa, the song itself is good. Perhaps a cover of it from another worship artist, and then the song can grow exponentially and become the popular worship track as I’m sure it was destined to become? ‘The Name of Jesus’ is a song of us declaring the qualities of God, and leaning into the truths we have proclaimed in this song, as we are given the courage to press on in situations and circumstances where we may need extra hope to persevere. Another pre-release track prior to album release date, ‘Oh The Power’, featuring Scottish worship leader Steph McLeod, doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but rather, presents a worship song reminding me a lot of the old-hymn ‘Oh the Blood of Jesus’, as we see yet another song that can potentially be used in a congregational worship setting- in fact a lot of these songs can be used on Sundays, but if you were to pick certain songs that stand out in that way, ‘Oh the Power’ would be one of them. Nothing wrong with that, the song is good, but unfortunately, as you listen through the entire album, unfortunately the song itself doesn’t stand out to me as much as maybe another songs like ‘My Hope is in the Blood’ would. Nevertheless, Phliippa continues to create the songs that are fit for praise and worship, especially during a moment of 2020, for such a time as this. ‘Everything is Possible’ is a song that can be sung and delivered on Sundays, especially in Sunday school for the young children (this song has a children’s feel to it)- great kudos to Philippa for delivering a song that maybe children can worship alongside too, as well as adults. ‘Against the Odds’, a song originally done acoustically a couple of years ago in a youtube video, is rerecorded here as a declaratory uplifting track that can easily succeed and be placed on CCM-pop radio, a track that is very much akin, alongside the first track ‘Freedom Found Me’, to Philippa’s music of before. ‘Against the Odds’ the song is a great reminder that we are in God’s hands, no matter whatever we may feel, and that even against the odds, and what people say is to be a certain outcome, we will stand with God in what we know to be true about our situation, that no matter what we face, God will use it all to our good and His glory.
‘Loved Me First’ features light acoustics and an electric guitar riff akin to something done in an acoustic/folksy setting, as Philippa presents a track that gives us hope and comfort in what Jesus sees when He sees us as we are- loving us first, maybe even before we loved ourselves; while ‘My Troubled Soul’, is a cover of an early 2000s hymn-like track from relatively-unknown singer-songwriter Robert Critchley, and is redone by Philippa as a medley between that track, and the ever-familiar ‘Leaning on the Everlasting Arms’ as the album closer. But for me it is the penultimate track ‘Trust’ that stood out to me when I heard the album once through. Though the song is unassumedly titled, ‘Trust’ nevertheless presents a theme that is ever so overlooked in churches- trusting the Lord, irregardless. Co-written with ex-Delirious? guitarist Stu G.; ‘Trust’ is a timely reminder to put everything that we have, our hopes, trust, dreams and joys, into the Lord in a time of uncertainty. ‘Trust’ feels like a familiar song (even though I’m certain I haven’t heard the track), it can hopefully become a powerful worship song, if another worship artist sung it and gave it more exposure (Passion, anyone?). Regardless of how ‘big’ this song gets, ‘Trust’ is definitely one of my favourite tracks on Stained Glass Stories, a reminder that such a song with a song title like this, can still surprise people, as we lay witness to quite possibly the most emotive and poignant song I’ve heard from Philippa since 2017’s ‘The Hero’!
While for me Philippa’s forte will forever be the CCM/pop/country vibes she has been giving to us before this album, what I will say about Stained Glass Stories is this- the album is good, not necessarily great or even groundbreaking, but nevertheless still good, and a reminder that even a change in music genre can still bring about songs that have life-changing and heartfelt appeal- songs like ‘Against the Odds’, ‘Trust’ or ‘Now to Jesus’, to name a few. Who knows, maybe these new songs by this U.K. native are sure to catch the U.S. by storm- doesn’t someone who signs to a major label, automatically gain some recognition in America by default? Well done Philippa for trying out something new, this worship album is for anyone who loves worship music, Philippa’s music of the past, or both. Here’s hoping that this direction is such that draws more people to Christ as He reminds us all of the hope that is in His blood alone, and that in all circumstances, He’s still reigning and still God!
3 songs to listen to: My Hope is in the Blood, Against the Odds, Now to Jesus
RIYL: Rend Collective, Tim Hughes, Delirious?, Elle Limbear