Release Date: July 21st 2023
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Man on the Middle Cross
Releasing their debut Provident Label Group album Come to the River way back in 2012, and following it up in 2014 with Here To the Ones (both albums spawning hits like ‘When Mercy Found Me’, ‘All I Need’, ‘Come to the River and ‘Broken Man’, to name a few), Rhett Walker Band received success over the years, from receiving Grammy nominations and Opry performances, to delivering albums that made me reconsider what it means to create music that dovetails in between country and Christian music (and execute the music that it’ll fit in both musical ‘genres’, and fit well!). They were riding success like a wave, so in 2016, when they quietly disbanded via a Facebook post, it was a little sudden and a little shocking for me. I mean…these guys were going so well. Why quit? Nevertheless, in February 2016, the band decided to quit the touring life, and to close a chapter on a career that was impacting, albeit too, too short. I didn’t really expect Rhett Walker to release anything else, ever…until in 2017, we saw Rhett deliver one of the most heartfelt and poignant releases of that year- ‘I Surrender’. It was a sign of things to come, because in 2018, Rhett unveiled to us a self-titled EP, as he felt rejuvenated in his call to music, navigating touring life again, this time with a clear sense of direction and hope. To come back from disbandment is a feat in and of itself, for any band/solo artist, and for Rhett to pour out his heart in the form of 6 songs was nothing short of encouraging. 2020 came by, and Rhett unveiled another musical offering- this time a full-length album Good To Me, and under ‘Rhett Walker’ instead of ‘Rhett Walker Band’…maybe that meant that he was going it solo? Regardless, Good To Me featured some songs from his 2018 EP (inclusive of ‘Say Hello’, ‘Like Your Father Does’, ‘Murder’, ‘Heavenly Home’, ‘Peace in the Family’), as well as some new ones (one standout being ‘Believer’), as Rhett delivered an album that was only enjoyed fully if people never really heard much of his 2018 EP- 5 out of the 6 songs on the EP are repeated on Good to Me, plus the recent hit ‘Believer’- making Good to Me only having 4 new songs. Nevertheless, Rhett’s album was one of the underrated albums of 2020, in a year that was a blur to almost everyone, because of COVID-19. Rhett also released another EP in 2021, Gospel Song, complete with standouts like ‘All Joy, No Stress’, as well as the title track as well. Now fast-forward a couple of years, and Rhett is back at it again. Signing to another record label (BEC Recordings), Rhett is embarking on other new venture, and the first song to start this new venture, is the uplifting track ‘Man on the Middle Cross’.
‘…I came across a clip of Alistair Begg’s sermon on social media, and he was speaking about the two men on both sides of Jesus on the cross. The man on the right ends up in heaven. The angels in heaven, stunned, are asking, ‘How are you here? You weren’t a follower of Jesus. You didn’t live a life worth gaining heaven.’ And the man said, ‘I don’t know how I’m here or where I am, but the man on the middle cross said I could be here.’ This message was such a reminder that grace and mercy have nothing to do with us. There’s nothing we could do to earn it and nothing we could do to deserve it. It is only and has always only been about Jesus, who He is, what He did, and the grace that He continues to pour out, which is why I thank God for the man on the middle cross…’ In keeping with Rhett’s own quote above, let me just reiterate this- the man on the right of Jesus didn’t repent of his sins. Didn’t say anything like ‘teacher, let me make right all the things I’ve done’. All he did was say something like ‘remember me, when You’re in Your kingdom’. That was it. And then Jesus replied (and I paraphrase) ‘I will tell you the truth- today you will be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:26-43). Now that in and of itself is grace personified right there. Jesus looks more at the heart’s intentions than the flashy words people can so emptily regurgitate on a whim. People can often look the part of being a Christian, but in their heart of hearts, be so far away from the Lord. And the opposite can be true. People can say on the day of judgement, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we do this or that in your name? Didn’t we cast our demons, heal the sick, visit the poor?’ Then Jesus would say ‘get away from me, I never knew you’ (Matthew 7:21-23). It is in these two passages that I am grateful for Jesus’s sacrifice; and will never take His death and resurrection for granted. It’s never about image or show- we ought to live a life of sacrifice, kindness, forgiveness, and grace, and maybe, just maybe, Rhett’s new song can hopefully help us undertake just that. Well done Rhett for this powerful and challenging song. Looking forward to whatever the Lord has in store, in the upcoming months ahead.
RIYL: Brandon Heath, Zach Williams, Mac Powell, Danny Gokey, Thomas Rhett