Release Date: September 19th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Only to You
- This is Amazing Grace
- Nothing is Impossible
- You Alone
- Hello My Name Is
- Whom Shall I Fear
- Made Me Glad
- Strong to Save (At the Cross)
- When I Speak Your Name
- Worthy is the Lamb
- Crown Him (Majesty)
- O Lamb of God
More popular during the 1990s and the 2000s, vocal groups have always shown us the power of someone’s voice, and whether it were trios, quartets, co-ed groups or all girl/guy groups, we were shown the talent of artists like Point of Grace, BarlowGirl, Avalon, The Nelons and The Crabb Family. Fastforward around 15 years and we are shown a vocal group, The Sisters, and with their new album Atmosphere delivering some great worship hits over the years and some current CCM melodies, we see an album that will be enjoyed by both lovers of 1990s style vocal groups and those who enjoy worship and current CCM styles alike.
From their humble beginnings with singing during the 1980s, 90s and the 2000s with their parents as The Ruppes, Kim, Heather and Valerie have now begun a group that’s a fusion of worship, CCM, and gospel, hopefully drawing in listeners of both traditional gospel and Christian pop music. With their 12 song album boasting fan favourite melody covers like Phil Wickham’s “This is Amazing Grace”, Hillsong’s “Worthy Is the Lamb”, Chris Tomlin’s “Whom Shall I Fear” and Planetshakers’s “Nothing is Impossible”, this is a must for anyone who loves the aforementioned artists above, or if you enjoy the likes of Phil Wickham, Matthew West or Chris Tomlin.
With 6 out of the 12 tracks being familiar to me as a duck is familiar to water, I could, if I wanted to, dissect each covered melody and analyse whether The Sisters created a better, or equal in quality, version compared to the originals. But I won’t. Instead I shall say this- it was when we hear a cover of a song that we can appreciate the song for what it is- a great song- rather than enjoy the song because of the artist singing it. “Hello, My Name Is”, a stirring anthem originally written and recorded by singer/songwriter Matthew West, speaks about how we ought to consciously and continuously claim who we are in Christ and not let ourselves, the devil or our circumstances dictate who we are; while “Worthy Is the Lamb” is a great surprise. Since not hearing this song in any form ever since Hillsong and Delirious?’s joint album back in 2004, it’s nice for a band/artist to cover a Hillsong fan favourite. Not that I have anything again current Hillsong melodies, but it’s nice to remember older songs and understand what songs like “Worthy is the Lamb” is a timeless classic.
Both Chris Tomlin’s “Crown Him (Majesty)” and “Whom Shall I Fear” from Burning Lights are also covered on this worship album, and each of the melodies, though reminding me of Chris’s style, also give homage to great vocal groups of the past and bring forth a gospel feel, a reminder that current CCM melodies can receive the gospel treatment and not lose any impact or momentum. Possibly the most worshipful on Chris’s 2013 album, both these tracks are recorded with justice as the Ruppe sisters invite us all to ‘…crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon the throne…’ (“Crown Him”). “Nothing is Impossible” and “This is Amazing Grace” the remaining two well-known covers, are also nicely arranged, and while both of them sound eerily and strikingly similar note-for-note when comparing them to versions from Planetshakers and Phil Wickham respectively; the sister trio brings us songs that, though not as familiar as songs from Bethel, Passion or Hillsong, still stir us up to worship and invite us to declare God’s grace, knowing that nothing is impossible with Him.
The remaining 6 tracks, though also mostly covers, aren’t necessarily the ones I am familiar with. Nevertheless, each of the melodies showcase a variety of music styles, and remind us all that songs can be just as enjoyable in their cover recorded form as they would be recorded by the original artist. “You Alone”, originally recorded by Seth Condrey on North Point’s Here and Now album released in 2012, it is the poignant lyrics and the piano presence in the melody where the sisters cry out that ‘…I will not fear, God You are with me…I will trust in You alone…’ that makes this song one of the most vulnerable, honest, and impacting, out of any song on Atmosphere. “When I Speak Your Name”, also recorded by Amy Perry on her solo album Glory All Around, brings to the fore a piano led melody that describes what happens when we speak God’s name- and how ‘…mountains move, chains are loose…darkness flees, it has no hold on me…the only name that brings freedom and hope…’ Though not as vibrant or lively as songs like “This is Amazing Grace” or “Hello My Name Is”, the Ruppe sisters still bring a tranquil song of reflection to us, and a great standout on Atmosphere.
From the country-style opener “Only to You” that declares God to be worthy and deserving of all the honour (and also allowing the sister trio to sound very similar in vocals to Point of Grace in their most recent albums A Thousand Little Things and No Changin’ Us), and the 90s style “Made Me Glad”, written by singer/songwriter Miriam Webster and made famous by Hillsong back in the early 2000s; to the piano prominent “Strong to Save”, a melody with a similar theme to Chris Tomlin’s most recent track “At the Cross” (and just as poignant) as the sisters sound similar vocally to that of either Nichole Nordeman or Natalie Grant; along with album ender “O Lamb of God”, a fitting tribute to the Lamb of God and a unique rendition of “Just as I Am”; The Sisters have unveiled a collection of songs new and old to bring us a great album to worship along to. Similar in music style to Point of Grace, and an album to listen to if you enjoy worship music artists like Phil Wickham or Chris Tomlin; Atmosphere teaches us to enjoy the songs for themselves, rather than enjoy it because of a particular artist. Well done to the Ruppes sisters for an enjoyable album experience.
3 songs to listen to: Whom Shall I Fear, Crown Him, Worthy is the Lamb
RIYL: Point of Grace, Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, The Sonflowerz