Release Date: October 23rd 2020
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Standing In Your Light
- A Thousand Thank Yous
- No Fear in Love
- I Will Say Yes
- Unbroken Family (feat. Matt Maher)
- Right Here, Right Now
One of the newest signings to Integrity Music, committed Catholic and worship leader Sarah Kroger has joined quite arguably one of the most impressive artist rosters of worship leaders- from Austin & Lindsey Adamec, David Leonard, Leeland, Lincoln Brewster and Matt Redman, to Selah, Philippa Hanna, MDSN, Martin Smith, Tim Timmons, Tim Hughes, and Paul Baloche; to name a few…and many more! Since releasing her first album in 2013, and then her label-debut project Bloom in 2019 (which we didn’t review for the site, but really aimed to, yet nevertheless couldn’t, for whatever reason); Sarah’s music has been ministering to people around America and around the world for a little while now. With Sarah’s vocals reminding me eerily of worship artist/indie singer-songwriter Audrey Assad, Sarah’s music is quite similar to Audrey’s music, at least, Audrey’s music when she was signed to Sparrow Records and released her first 2 albums- The House You’re Building and Heart. And now in 2021, upon listening to Sarah’s new EP titled Light (that was unveiled to us in October 2020), we see Sarah deliver some of the most emotive and poignant EP’s to ever have been released in that year, and an album from…dare I say, one of the most underrated female artists I’ve heard, ever since Lauren Daigle all those years ago? Sarah’s music sounds like Audrey’s in all the possible good ways it can be, and as we enjoy this 8 track EP set, we see Sarah’s heart for worship, ministry; and the body of Christ, become completely evident in these songs. While many people within the Catholic circle might take issue to Sarah’s contemporary music style (the only other devout Catholic Christian musician who delivers CCM at the moment, is Matt Maher), I’ve found this album very refreshing, as these songs remind us that Protestantism shouldn’t have a full monopoly on worship music, espciecally when you have artists like Sara and Matt, leading the way as Catholics that deliver CCM…and there’s nothing wrong with that!
‘Standing in Your Light’ is the first single from Light, that released in April 2020, and it’s a ball of joyous pop fun galore, as this radio-friendly dance-tune is one song to be excited for in this EP, a standout amongst the rest, and a track to let-loose to and dance, believing the words all the way through, that ‘…there is no fear when I am standing in Your light, made me a promise, You are always by my side, my hands are lifted to the One who changed my life, I’m only free when I am standing in Your light…’ Rousing and declaratory, enthusiastic and passionate, this song from Sarah is one to jam along to on a Sunday afternoon, or one to turn up loud when you do have a party, and while this song on the surface can seem a little formulaic; the song itself still feels fresh and enjoyable. Yes, I can still hear the Audrey Assad vocal comparisons from the get-go, and that’s still ok. ‘Standing In Your Light’ is a great track to begin this EP, and a song that’s certain to be on anyone’s playlist who loves a great anthem, within the next few months ahead. As Sarah imparts to us herself, ‘…this summertime anthem is a song that gives people hope in every season. The lyrics describe what I hope to see as I look out at the people of God standing in His light, unashamed, and full of faith. Even in a time of pandemic and quarantine, believers all over the world are still putting his love on display and sharing the light of Christ with their communities through evangelism, service, and self-sacrifice. It’s my hope that this song encourages people to leave behind the darkness and bring all of themselves into the light so God can continue to transform us and send us out. Standing in the light of Christ we have everything we need. ‘For with You is the fountain of life; In your light we see light.’ Psalm 36:9…’
‘A Thousand Thank Yous’ is track #2 on the EP; and follows on from ‘Standing in Your Light’, as the tone of the song is stripped down and is much more reflective and poignant. Sarah presents this melody that is easy-to-learn, a song that ought to be a hit on Sunday mornings for a song in the morning music portion of your church service, and that isn’t a bad thing. Yes, this song does sound very Hillsong-ish and that can still be ok, even if we may not necessarily like or even agree with half of what Hillsong does, we still have to admit tha they make great music. And Sarah’s comparison to Hillsong ought to be taken as a compliment as we see this track hopefully becoming a beacon of hope for many, a reminder for us to continuously say a thousand thank yous and to have a thankful and grateful heart, especially during this moment of political divide and a pandemic that, if we’re being blunt, is never really going to go away. ‘No Fear in Love’, another radio-friendly track, reminds us all about not being any fear in love, as I’m reminded about the verse in the bible that speaks of how perfect love casts out fear, and that what is holding us down, becomes miniscule in the eyes of Christ and what we believe Him to be in our lives, and believe Him to be, full stop. Sarah continues the EP with themes like having a surrendering heart and allowing the Lord to flow through us as we submit and become the conduit of His grace and love to people we meet (‘I Will Say Yes’), having an intentionality to sing and declare to the Lord, that we proclaim His praise and worthiness, right here and now- be it in worship services at church, or in our everyday life (‘Right Here, Right Now’), as well as believing the fact that even now, we can ‘own’ our fear, self-loathing, voices in our heads, our shame, regrets and failure, when in reality, we should own our belovedness instead, when we know that ‘…He says, “You’re mine, I smiled when I made you, I find you beautiful in every way, my love for you is fierce and unending, I’ll come to find you, whatever it takes, my beloved”…’ (‘Belovedness’). ‘Monument’ ends the EP in great upbeat fashion, as Sarah showcases what I reckon could be a potential radio single in the future, as the theme of the empty grave as a monument of God’s love given to us, and a showpiece of His unending and undying love for creation; whilst the lone collaboration on the EP belongs to that of ‘Unbroken Family’, a collaboration between Sarah and fellow-Catholic singer-songwriter/worship leader Matt Maher; a song that is one of the most poignant on the EP itself. Released in September 2020, this light-percussion string-heavy piano-driven melody, is a reminder that in Christ, we are a family with Him- He is a trinity- three in one; of the Father, Son and Spirit, and thus, a community to begin with. Us being with Him only adds to this enriching family, as we experience what a family gives to people- love unconditional, from the word go, just because. A song that reminds us of where our family is and who it’s in, both Matt and Sarah deliver such passion and enthusiasm to place this song as one of the most surprising worship songs I’ve heard in the last few months!
‘…writing for Light allowed me to put into practice what my previous album, Bloom, set into motion. Bloom was the process of rising out of the dirt and stretching towards the sun. Light is about what comes next – showing up everyday and being who God made me to be. I’m a person who has a tendency of keeping things in the dark. Whether it’s something I perceive as good, like my talents or bad, like my sin and shame, I keep it hidden. Standing in the light makes us vulnerable – but it’s also the place where Love can do its greatest work. I hope that the songs on Light inspire and challenge people to see beyond their perceptions of God, themselves, the world and lead them to what is true, good, and beautiful…’ It is in this quote that I will end this review. Light is a great EP and one of my very own certain picks as ‘favourite EP of 2020’. That’s how good it is. A great reminder of how very similar Sarah’s voice is, to Audrey Assad’s (in the best possible way, ever!), Light can hopefully bring people in if you’re a fan of Audrey’s earlier music, and can hopefully cause people to stay listening, because of Sarah’s vocal talent and poignancy. This is a must-have if you love Audrey’s music, Matt Maher’s, or even other artists like Love & The Outcome and Hannah Kerr. An album that may have been passed over last year by myself, I’m glad I revisited this EP. One of 2020’s best. Well done Sarah for such an album- here’s hoping to continually making thought-provoking and biblical music, in the upcoming months and years ahead!
3 songs to listen to: Unbroken Family, A Thousand Thank Yous, Monument
RIYL: Audrey Assad, Matt Maher, Hannah Kerr, Love & The Outcome, I AM THEY