Release Date: September 23rd 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- Kingdom Come
- Sound Of Heaven
- You Deserve
- Passion Of Our Hearts
- He Is Good To Us
- Power Of the Cross
- Love Of Christ
- Hallelujah To The King
- We Bless Your Name
- Church Arise
- Open Hands
Writer of the smash hit “The Power Of The Cross”, covered by Natalie Grant in 2010; Shelly E Johnson, started to write songs as a way of therapy and healing after her father passed away when she was a teenager, and she has been writing worship songs since then. Signing to LifeWay Worship in 2011, Shelly released her debut label EP Power Of The Cross in 2012, and is now gearing up to unveil her first full length label release Your Kingdom Come this coming week. With songs that are lyrically and thematically directed to the church and for corporate worship, this new album is filled with 12 brand new worship anthems that will be at home on any Sunday setlist at congregational worship. While many may not know of Shelly’s music, it is this album in my opinion that will set her music apart from many other worship contemporaries. What makes it even more remarkable is that Shelly isn’t signed to a major label, hence making the crisp and full quality of her music on this release, produced by Pocked Full Of Rocks frontman Michael Farren, quite remarkable. Coming out of left field in that I didn’t expect to love the album this much; Shelly’s inspiring and honest batch of songs is sure to be on my rotation in iTunes for a while, and hopefully many others’ music players as well.
The emphatic and explosive title track opens proceedings and sets the tone musically and thematically for the whole album. Majestically starting off with drums, keys and moving and inspiring guitar, with the chorus entering in at full speed; Shelly proclaims that Jesus’ kingdom has come on earth as it is in heaven! With an atmosphere of urgency and importance, Shelly ignites, or reignites for us passion in our heart for Jesus though an epic and bright start to the album, sure to be sung in churches everywhere soon! In fact, the laid back acoustic music video accentuates this track even more, and for me it’s an indescribable and totally God-breathed moment, especially when Shelly sings out God’s praises and sovereignty with altered lyrics to the Lord’s prayer, that ‘…Your kingdom come, Your will be done…Your glory reign, hallowed be Your name…’. Well done Shelly for inspiring us to worship Jesus.
In every other song, Shelly draws us into a place of vulnerability where we can meet God and worship Him where we are at. Following on from the title track is the emotional and moving “Sound Of Heaven”. Driven by authoritative electric guitars and commanding drums, Shelly’s stirring vocals shine through here, as we are met with a fervent stand for God, that we are the sound of heaven, and the hands of feet of Jesus on this earth. Being a voice piece for Jesus on this earth is very crucial as Christians- it is the great commission that beckons us to go and create disciples of non-believers; and it is this song that emphatically reminds us of their ever true fact. And as Shelly unassumingly and unwaveringly shows us her heart for Jesus, we are also given more songs to encourage us to share the gospel.
The piano and strings led slower ballad “You Deserve” (no not the Natalie Grant version, but on par with the song!)is a straight up vertical worship track that encourages us to give God our heart and our lives as we praise Him for everything He is and for everything He has done. As Shelly invokes a sense of gratitude in us, as she ardently sings out ‘…You deserve glory…praise, honour and power be unto Your name, let every creature sing of Your worth, Jesus we bless You with songs that You deserve…’, I can’t help but passionately sing along and be grateful and thankful of everything Jesus has done in my life. “Passion Of Our Hearts” is another enjoyable and emotional track, an acoustic piano led melody. Shelly shows us her soul and vulnerable side here, singing about her deep, deep love for Jesus, and her desire that she, and we all have God firm and centre as the passion of our hearts- the One we adore and love in this world, more than breath and life itself. A captivating and inspiring song, my respect for Shelly only increases with this album highlight.
The album is brought back into more vibrant and full-band like, with “He Is Good To Us” a mid tempo assertion and proclamation that Jesus Christ is good, to us- an invitation to ‘…come and taste and see His love, He is good to us…’; and a compelling and haunting re-recording of her most famous hit “The Power Of The Cross”, with Shelly eloquently depicting the gospel story and the fact that Jesus died to save us all from death and separation from Him. As an assessment, the first half of the album is pretty standard musically, with slower musical numbers meant to focus more on the lyrics; however this plays to Shelly’s strengths as a vocalist and a songwriter- these songs are gold lyrically and thematically. The next six songs only cement my view of Shelly- that she is one of today’s most powerful Christian songwriters, especially in the genre of vertical worship songs!
While the back half of the album contains several seemingly unconnected themes, and sometimes repetitive to the first half, they all on a deeper level contain a common thread of lifting Jesus high and making his name famous. It is these themes in these songs (and also shown in the first half), and remind us that a theme can be sung many times before we fully grasp and understand its deeper meaning.
“Love Of Christ” (a mid tempo guitar led moving melody about the unending love of God and how marvelous, glorious and beautiful it is), “Hallelujah To The King” (a needtobreathe country like tune that praises God for His qualities- a upbeat celebratory song that shouts out Hallelujah!), “We Bless Your Name” (a piano focused song of thankfulness that has Shelly telling God that we bless His name as He is ‘…Jesus, saviour, God of glory…’ and that He loves us unconditionally) and “Church Arise” (the declaration for the church, driven by keys, about how we as a body of Christ has to rise up and overtly share Christ with the world, as it is our responsibility as Christians to ensure that as many people hear the good news as they can), all unveil pertinent themes and relevant tracks that inspire us to serve Jesus overtly and to spread the gospel to our friends and family, and to anyone else who will listen. Yet it is the final two tracks that are the best worship closers I have heard in a while, and has me very excited and intrigued for future projects from Shelly!
“Open Hands”, a radio friendly piano led ballad, is a song about God’s faithfulness, as Shelly sings that God is God and His ways are higher than own- further in the song she surrenders total control, and reminds us that we as Christians need to do the same thing if we want to live a life of freedom and liberty. The inspiring words in the chorus, where Shelly lets us know that ‘…Almighty God, before You I bow, I come to You with open hands, all of my pride I’m laying it down, surrendering all I am…’ is probably my favourite part of the song, as it speaks about trust in the midst of our suffering, trials and our situations we think we can control (like Jonah and Job in the Bible), and “Overwhelmed”, the closer, carries on from this theme.
The song on the album that Shelly has personally mentioned that has taken off at live concerts to a great magnitude, more than she expected; is the heartbeat of the album, and a prayer of simple thanks and gratitude. It is Shelly at her most broken, emotional, honest and vulnerable- telling God she is overwhelmed and moved by His sacrifice. We as Christians are undeserving of grace, and this song is Shelly’s way of saying ‘thank You’. Well done Shelly for reminding us that Jesus’ love never fails, His grace covers all, and that we can praise Him morning, noon and night for the good things He has done and for the God that He is and forever will be!
What can I say about Shelly E Johnson’s album Your Kingdom Come that I haven’t mentioned already? This brilliant set of 12 songs fittingly shows us a woman on fire for God, who is willing to change the world through her strong faith. As Shelly gives us hit after hit here (expect all 12 to be sung at some point in many churches around the world); I find myself in awe of her songwriting and her worship leading skills. A must by on September 23rd; I’m sure Shelly will find herself with new fans; no doubt her album will bring with it exposure. In this case exposure is a good thing, and I look forward for Shelly’s stardom as a writer and singer rises and rises, as God’s name is made famous. Well done Shelly for a standout release in the second half of 2014!
3 songs to listen to: Kingdom Come, Love Of Christ, Open Hands
RIYL: Natalie Grant, Kari Jobe, Christy Nockels, Meredith Andrews