Release Date: October 7th 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- Come Alive
- Grace Is Hope
- Calm My Heart
- No Rebel Rise
- Your Grace Is Amazing (feat. Natalie La Rue)
- Beautiful Mess
- If We Knew Your Love
- In Your Name We Rise
- To See Your Glory
With a country twang in his voice, indie rock/worship artist PJ Anderson has been reminding us time and time again with his heartfelt music and poignant lyrics about Jesus’ love for us. Releasing his 4th album recently, titled Rise, I hadn’t jumped on the bandwagon of PJ’s music earlier, but now I’m glad I did, as we meet a humble man of God who’s passionate in reaching the lost and preaching the gospel through his songs. Fans of Matt Maher and Needtobreathe in particular would love this album, however I would encourage any fan of worship music to check out the album. It’s something a little different, and that’s pretty cool to listen to.
Opening the album is the CCM/country/rock title track, starting with rousing gang vocals and a vibrant country atmosphere, and driven by stirring electric guitars. As PJ emphatically declares that we as Christians need to take a stand for the gospel, and need to rise up in a world that is broken and full of sin, the chorus highlights this desperation brilliantly through the simple lyrics of ‘…we rise, we rise, from the darkness we will rise…’, and reminds me that our responsibility to be a light to everyone we meet, and show Jesus, is heightened more than ever before. Well done PJ for creating awareness and a need for us to proactive move, in this positive and upbeat album opener!
All throughout the album PJ infuses his country roots with worship, even in the slower ballads, and the rest of the 9 tracks shows us his heart, and unique musical arrangements that I can commend and applaud! “Come Alive” is an acoustic guitar led mid tempo melody, speaking about waiting for God to come alive in us, for that moment when we have that epiphany of being free and knowing what our purpose in life is. The chorus again is simple, with PJ asking God to come alive in him, as well as everyone else in the world, and it is this proclamation that resonates, as we see PJ’s earnest heart and his passion to let Jesus’ name be famous!
“Grace Is Hope” is a laid back piano led ballad and duet sung with Natalie LaRue, that gently outlines that Jesus is our Saviour, ardently thanking Him for searching for us when we are lost, that ‘…Your grace gives us hope, Your grace brings us hope…’. The song also has PJ channeling his inner ‘Phillips Craig and Dean’ voice, and is truly a gem on the album, even if the song doesn’t really build to that epic crescendo- there still is truly some magical moments and God breathed moments when the two vocalists sing out in unison. While the next track “Calm My Heart” also features Natalie on guest vocals, and is a prayer to God outlining how much we need Him to be present with us and to calm our hearts in times of trouble and stress, the last song before halfway is the introspective electric guitar led ballad “No Rebel Rise”, and contemplative song where PJ declares that no rebel shall rise against our Lord God almighty, as ‘…You take my weakness and my sin, there’s nothing I’ve done that You won’t forgive…’. God is all powerful and mighty, so who in their right mind would rise against the decisions and wisdom of God?
Starting the second half is PJ’s rendition of “Amazing Grace”, titled “Your Grace Is Amazing”. Very different to the version we all know and love (which is Chris Tomlin’s version), this rendition, also featuring Natalie LaRue on guest vocals, receives the full country/bluegrass treatment, as we are introduced to a new melody in the verses, and a brand new original chorus, that basically proclaims that Jesus’ grace is amazing (a similar theme to Phil Wickham’s “This Is Amazing Grace”). As PJ and Natalie sing out in harmony that ‘…Your grace is amazing…and it is the one things that truly sets me free…it makes my heart sing, cause it is my hope, my strength, my life, my everything…’ across banjo, hand claps and a southern gospel type atmosphere, I can truly say that this rendition is one of the best versions of “Amazing Grace” that I have heard!
The lead single “Beautiful Mess” has PJ moving into the most pop and CCM song on the album. Highlighting how God can turn our lives around and make our messes beautiful, PJ’s vocals are top notch, even though this song is not as powerful as others on the album. It still is great though, as a song, although PJ’s style of country and slower ballads means that this track doesn’t fit that well with the rest. Regardless, the bridge is quite compelling and powerful, as PJ reiterates that ‘…no mess is so great that You wouldn’t save and set us free…’.
“If We Knew Your Love” is led by the acoustic guitar and is a ballad that is an eye opener outlining how people in the world hurt each other using religion as the cover for unspeakable actions, or people are hurting each other for no apparent reason at all. A pseudo-story song, PJ poses the question ‘…if we knew Your love, would we live your life any differently…’, then asks God to make him more like Himself, so that we can live like Jesus and love others like Jesus, as we are all part of the body of Christ and we are all necessary. It’s a humble and poignant track that moves into the final two songs on the album.
“In Your Name We Rise” is another CCM like track, led by strong guitars and PJ’s distinct country vocals giving the song depth. The melody basically praises God for creation, for being God and for giving His life for us. It’s a song of gratitude that highlights how we are in need of our Saviour and also points out that Jesus is everything we need.
The last track brings the tempo down a bit, and is a fantastic way to end the album. “To See Your Glory” is a cry to God from PJ, a plea for us to see God’s glory and Him manifest his presence on Earth with revival and breakthrough. A cry that is fitting in recent times due to increased economic and political uncertainty around the world; it’s no coincidence that this song released now at this time. Regardless of the context, I would say that singing a prayer like ‘…we open our eyes, we open our hands…we look for Your face in the darkest of places to see Your glory heal the Earth…’, in any situation is pretty special and important, but PJ’s delivery and the events happening around the world, heightens the importance and value of the song, that in my opinion, is the cornerstone lyrically of the whole album.
Overall, the album is littered with many different musical moments that are Holy Spirit filled and orchestrated, and as an independent album, PJ Anderson’s Rise is one of the best albums to release in a while. Sure to resonate with many listeners, PJ’s undeniable joy and passion for God is evident in many tracks, and his unmistakable country twang and influence is shown to be a positive, as he sings songs to his strengths, solidifying his identity as an artist. Well done PJ, you have gained at least one fan (myself), and I pray that many others will join your fanbase as well! Now…time to listen to PJ’s previous 3 albums, and eagerly anticipate the next album!
3 songs to listen to: Grace Is Hope, Your Grace Is Amazing, To See Your Glory
RIYL: Matt Maher, Needtobreathe, Rhett Walker Band, Phillips Craig and Dean, John Waller