Rebecca St. James – DAWN

Heritage Music Group / Bethel Music

Release Date: July 24th 2020

Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre

Rebecca St. JamesDAWN (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Prelude
  2. Middle of the Fire (feat. Josh Baldwin)
  3. Ready for the Rain
  4. Fall Back
  5. Dawn (feat. Luke Smallbone)
  6. The Battle is the Lord’s (feat. Brandon Lake)
  7. Alleluia Jesus

‘…but what I have observed through admiring and respecting Rebecca’s career through this whole time, is that God always has something up His sleeve- it was revealed through a recent interview this year that Rebecca actually unofficially retired from music a short time after I Will Praise You was released- and now God’s calling her back. Will the new song (and album) from Rebecca bring back her fans of old? Who knows, I know I will be waiting in anticipation for whenever Dawn arrives. Till then, I’m going to continue to marvel at the way that God has used the songs from Rebecca’s career in my own life, and reminded me that someone as ‘young’ as Rebecca (when she started out professionally at 17) can still be influential and shaped by God for His purposes. Rebecca is one such artist that hasn’t really let the fame of being a star at such a young age faze her, even though she did take some breaks from music in between. She is a testament and a role model hopefully to other young aspiring artists- like Hollyn and Riley Clemmons; of how to manage a career in the spotlight when you’re so young…regardless of what may come of Dawn and its aftermath, one thing is clear- that Rebecca’s music has shaped, and will continue to shape, Christian music as a whole- and that if Rebecca’s music never really existed or got off the ground, then CCM would be in a different musical landscape today- and it is for that, I am grateful for Rebecca’s songs, not just personally, but for the whole world too!…’ This quote aforementioned was written at the end of May 2020, when I discussed Rebecca and her music and the impact and influence of it on modern music history- I wrote a blog about Rebecca here, and so I don’t think I’ll need to discuss a lot of Rebecca’s history here in this ‘review’- but what I will say is the return of Rebecca to music has been a welcomed surprise for myself, an avid fan of her whole career. Rebecca’s new comeback single ‘The Battle is the Lord’s’ debuted back in June 2020, and now her EP Dawn just released this last week. After 9 years of inactivity, her return is nothing short of being miraculous, as it brings back a lot of nostalgia of my own youth.

‘…the message is so relevant to what the world is dealing with right now. The heartbeat is that the Church can sing this song, and people can be pointed to the fact that God is in control. I think in this time, it’s so easy for all of us to fear, but He’s calling us to a place of deeper trust… ‘Battle Is The Lord’s’ has been personally encouraging to me in my journey with this project, even to finish out the work that we’re doing. There were a lot of old triggers, old fears and old pain associated with music that I had to overcome. This song calls me to trust in God and see that He’s gone before me. It’s His battle to fight, not mine…’ ‘The Battle is the Lord’s’ was unveiled to us in June 2020, and here, Rebecca is collaborating with Bethel Music artist Brandon Lake, and has said previously this year that she has now partnered with Bethel Music in the distribution of her new album Dawn. And as we hear ‘Battle is the Lord’s’, we are to be reminded that in fact, the battle is certainly the Lord’s to fight, not for ourselves in our own human flesh. For the fights we face, maybe even on a daily basis, are often spiritual by nature, and as we sit back and remind ourselves that God fights for us on our behalf, even if we may believe that we have to go in there alone and fight this insurmountable task on our own; is a great comforting thing to know. The battle is not ours to win, but is a reminder that we can’t undertake such things by ourselves- we need our God with us, and for us, and championing us, and working alongside us, as we’re shaped and refined through the process of the fight as well. Brandon’s addition to this song is well-placed, and even though for me I still feel a little like this is more of a ‘Bethel’ song than a ‘Rebecca St. James’ song, her voice never ceases to amaze me. Rebecca’s a great icon of Christian music in general, and her new album, for any fan of her music, will be much welcomed after her hiatus. ‘The Battle is the Lord’s’ is a joyous song of remembering that our fights need not to be fights on our own- we have the God of creation by our side, fighting the good fight with us- what more can we long for? Going through difficulties and trials isn’t always fun, but knowing that Christ is with us makes it better, as we know that through these dark days, we will emerge with a much more appreciative nature not only for ourselves and the world around us, but appreciative of God for going to great depths to bring us back to Himself.

Throughout the rest of the EP, Rebecca continues to deliver powerful melodies with her trademark voice alongside more collaborations and a musical sound harkening back to her 2002 Worship God days. ‘Middle of the Fire’, a track that sounds the most CCM (even more so than ‘Battle is the Lords’), features fellow Bethel music singer-songwriter Josh Baldwin as Rebecca’s collaborative partner and is declaring of a trust that is with confidence and boldness that it is in the Lord- belief in the fact that even in our most difficultest of trials and tribulations, He never leaves us and is still working our very own situations for our good and His glory. ‘Ready for the Rain’ follows at 4:35 in length, and though a lot of the song is littered with autotune and electronic layering of the vocals, the song nevertheless presents to us a great theme of us being ready for whatever the Lord has in store for us- in this song, rain: God’s presence, His outpouring of His Spirit, and maybe even rain in a physical sense too. ‘Ready for the Rain’, though sounding too electronic for my own liking, still presents a solid theme as we understand we need to be ready in case God brings the rain- metaphorically, spiritually or even physically, when we least expect it. ‘Fall Back’, quite possibly the most unoriginal song-title of every other song on the EP, is a track that has been sung in various another forms by various other artists in years previous- MercyMe’s ‘All Fall Down’ and Hillsong Y&F’s ‘Falling into You’, to name a few. Nevertheless, Rebecca’s track is as soothing as it is tranquil as it features string instruments as the song creates a space where we reflect upon the fact that we can indeed fall back into the arms of Jesus, because we can trust Him with our lives and our very being.

‘Dawn’, the title track, features Luke Smallbone (of for KING & COUNTRY) featured alongside Rebecca on the track, as this melody becomes a great highlight. Lyrically it is about a persona who is at the end of their rope, struggling in their life, but still declaring God’s faithfulness and singing alleluia, because they know beyond their feelings, that He will bring a new dawn and a fresh rebirth, after the trials and difficulties that is being faced right now. Fervent and passionate, it is a reminder to never let go of the hope we have in Christ, that healing, grace and hope comes forth when we stand firm in the promises of God and see what He has done in the past, and declare it for our own futures. ‘Alleluia Jesus’ ends the album with a moment of vertical worship, and though the song itself is littered too much with autotune (and for me isn’t really much of a standout musically on DAWN); the sentiment of the track still remains, that God deserves all the glory and honour, that we can declare alongside Rebecca the powerful, freeing and refreshing words ‘alleluia Jesus’.

Rebecca St. James has been a part of my own childhood and teenage years, and it was a great nostalgic feeling for myself to hear DAWN, and though the EP was in effect just that- an EP; the songs nevertheless present a more worshipful feel- similar to that of Worship God or I Will Praise You than her other albums of the past. And though I still feel that this album in and of itself feels a little too ‘Bethel’ for my own liking, and less of the RSJ flavour of the past, these songs nevertheless still impact and encourage. With songs like ‘Battle is the Lord’s, ‘Middle of the Fire’ and the title track being standouts of mine, this is a must-have if you love Rebecca’s music of the past, or if you are into some nostalgia from yesteryear, or both. Well done Rebecca for this emotive and heartfelt EP; hoping and praying that these songs minister to people in the months to come, especially during this uncertain and difficult time on a global scale.

3 songs to listen to: Middle of the Fire, Dawn, Battle Is the Lord’s

Score: 4/5

RIYL: Rend Collective, All Sons and Daughters, Vertical Worship, Chris Tomlin, Passion

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