Release Date: May 10th 2019
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- When We Fall Apart
- Mercy in the Dirt
One of the mainstays on Gotee Records, alongside Finding Favour, Hollyn and relative newcomer Aaron Cole; Ryan Stevenson has been creating music for the people and songs to inspire us all for a while now. Yet, if I am to be very frank and honest; previous to his powerful and emotive radio single, “Eye of the Storm” that peaked as high as #1 on Billboard Christian Songs Charts in 2016, I’m not even sure that many people even heard of Ryan and his music. I mean, even though Ryan has been within the music business for a few years, releasing an EP Yesterday Today Forever on BEC Recordings and Holding Nothing Back, his new 2nd EP, on Gotee Records in 2013, it was his debut full length album Fresh Start, that featured “Eye of the Storm”, that really placed this new singer/songwriter on the map of anyone who loves CCM (like myself). While much of CCM’s most popular, started their career in music at relatively young ages, Ryan previously held a job for a while as a paramedic prior to switching to music full-time. That’s what I reckon makes Ryan and his music so appealing, heartfelt and relatable- the fact that he undertook a regular average joe job before doing music, we can understand that when he sings about the daily struggles in life, he can actually relate. We think, ‘gee, this guy is not just an idealistic musician who has no idea what the common man deals with each day, he is like us, he did have a career in a ‘normal’ job prior to this, so he knows what we’re going through’. Not that I think like that when I hear music from any artist- think whether the song is even relatable to me given the background of the artist singing it, but Ryan’s position is a unique one.
Since his debut album on Gotee Records in 2015, Ryan has imparted to us emotive and encouraging songs, all reminding us of the necessity of Christ in our lives. No Matter What released in 2018, that featured the empowering and emotive title track (that featured Bart Millard, lead singer of MercyMe), alongside other standout songs like ‘The Gospel’ and ‘Lift You Up’. Now fast-forward to 2019, and we see yet another offering by Ryan in the form of a ‘single’ release- two songs that maybe could be from his upcoming album, maybe just two songs released on its own. Nevertheless, his two recent songs like ‘Mercy in the Dirt’ and ‘When We Fall Apart’ are some of the most vulnerable songs I’ve heard from Ryan since ‘Eye in the Storm’.
‘When We Fall Apart’ the song is perhaps, tying up there with ‘Greater than All My Regrets’ (Tenth Avenue North), as my favourite song of 2019 thus far. It is real, honest, poetic and at times unsettling as the song itself calls for the theme to be brought to the fore, that sometimes the only things that will bring us healing are the things that will ultimately make us fall apart. Sounding very dichotomous though, I am nevertheless reminded that in many circumstances, I am faced with the reality that it is in our weakness and brokenness that we can realise the things we’ve been holding onto for so long, be it through our shame, worry, discontent, uncertainty and assumptions about people and life and God, will only be brought to the light when everything else fades and all we’re left to cling to is either the truth of the Word of God and what it says about circumstances, or the things we’ve grabbed to for so long during times of despair and uncertainty, and that may not always be tied to what Jesus says. Falling apart may look scary, but often is a necessary thing in order for us to re-evaluate our own circumstances and see what needs to change in our own lives. Ryan wrote this song out of a personal tragedy- as an only child, Ryan was very close to his mother, until her untimely death in October 2009 because of bone cancer. The song ‘When We Fall Apart’ was written and released 10 years after her passing.
As Ryan divulges himself about the song, ‘…even in the face of imminent death, she was pouring out wisdom and words of healing and encouragement to me that it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to grieve, it’s OK to fall apart. We are all going to experience loss at some point to some degree. This song has been my way of working through and navigating one of the most painful storms of my life. I hope it encourages you to do the same…’ Produced by Micah Kuiper (guitarist of Hawk Nelson), this song for me embodies what it means to be a vulnerable human being who isn’t behind masks and facades, but rather, answers the call of Christ to be real to our fellow man, so that others can see that realness that we often speak of. It is in a song like this that we can rest assured that it is indeed ok to fall apart, knowing that God has us held in His arms whenever such occurrence was to happen. Falling apart is indeed unwanted by ourselves initially, but in hindsight, could be the moments where God works in our lives the most.
Coupling the vulnerable song with ‘Mercy in the Dirt’, a joyous and pop-radio friendly song about singing about how God never kicks us to the curb when we’re down, but rather, lends a helping hand and offers mercy, even in the midst of our dirt and chaos, Ryan delivers two songs that though poles apart musically, nevertheless deliver hard-hitting truths about Jesus and the gospel and what it means for us to be completely transparent in His presence, and realising that God is present with us always, even in the pits where He pulls us out, often more than once. Well done Ryan for such powerful and life-changing songs. Though I’ve heard only two new songs from Ryan this year, and I can already say that his new music will be some of my favourite of 2019. That’s just how Ryan’s music is- infectious, joyous, happy, and confronting all at the same time.
RIYL: Delirious?, Stellar Kart, Tauren Wells, For KING AND COUNTRY