Release Date: July 29th 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- Every Praise
- God Is Able
- Revelation Song
- Man Of Sorrows
- I’m Living Proof
- Beneath The Waters (I Will Rise)
- Never Once
- Take Me To The King
- Hope’s Anthem
- Victor’s Crown
It’s hard recording a covers album. The renditions and versions have to be recorded in such a way that the original recording is preserved, that the song is recognizable, yet the song also needs to be given new life, and not sound flat and stale. There is a fine line between the covers being abysmal and then also doing the original version justice, and many artists walk that tightrope very carefully, and one wrong note or a beefed up tempo where it should be mellow, or vice versa, can make or break an album. Thankfully Travis Cottrell and his worship team have recorded a fantastic collection of well-known songs in his latest album I’m Living Proof and have covered them in an authentic way, keeping to the original versions, and ensuring that these renditions are thoroughly enjoyable as well. This 11 track worship journey of songs you may be familiar with on your Sunday set list is sure to inspire and encourage, and with Travis at the helm leading the songs, you can be certain of a God breathed and special experience!
Opening the track list with an upbeat gospel infused and jazz inspired choir led “Every Praise”, originally sung by Hezekiah Walker, Travis captivates and inspires us as he emphatically proclaims that Jesus is Lord, and that ‘…every praise is to our God, every word of worship with one accord…’. While the original version isn’t in my genre, this rendition is strangely enjoyable, as Travis reminds me of Carman in singing style and genre on this track, and the choir and backing vocals are just as enthusiastic as well, creating a worthy rendition that may even surpass the original version, in my opinion. Another gospel track that has been redone here is “Awesome”, originally sung by Charles Jenkins, and like the previous gospel melody, includes a stirring choir as backing vocals. Musically a slower paced worship ballad, I am in awe of Travis’ ability to sing these songs that may sound at first impressions out of his genre, and surprising excel at them far beyond my expectations. As Travis reminds us that ‘…my God is awesome, He can move mountains, keep me in the valley, hide me from the rain…’, I am once again in awe of Travis and his worship leading.
The final gospel themed track on this album is “Take Me To The King”, by Tamela Mann, which is a straight up worship ballad led by keys. Culminating in an epic build up and crescendo leading to an epic moment of surrender and adoration to God, as the instruments breathe life into the song, Travis steps away from the microphone and gives the song over to others in his band. Though I am unsure as to who the female vocalist on this song is, it’s clear that Travis and co. have nevertheless recorded a special song worth multiple listens, and a version that I believe is more poignant and emotional than the original version!
Speaking of other vocalists besides Travis leading tracks, “Revelation Song”, “Beneath The Waters” and “Victor’s Crown” are all songs led by female vocalists on Travis’ worship team (whom I do not know the names of), and all three songs are poignant, honest and giving honour and glory to Jesus. With the sublime and serene vocals in “Beneath The Waters” reminding me of Brooke Fraser, Hillsong’s Annie Garratt, and Christy Nockels in passion; the energetic anthem written by Brooke Fraser, has taken off in recent years, and is a beautiful worship anthem to be rerecorded on this project. Sung in churches everywhere and one of Hillsong’s popular hits; the sincere and emotional delivery of the chorus ‘…I will rise as Christ was raised to life, now in Him…I live…’ shows us the gospel message right there! Such a profound experience; and when the crowd and backing vocals engage in the chorus, I am left in awe!
The lead single “Victors Crown” (released as a lyric video in April this year) is another highlight, with mysterious synth opening the track as the song plays out like an orchestral movement. Co-written with Kari Jobe; this gem of a song proclaiming ‘…Hallelujah, Jesus You have overcome the world…’ has me surrendering to God also, as I wholeheartedly agree with everything laid out in this hopefully timeless classic; that our existence is meant to be for worshipping Jesus and that He reigns high above on the Victor’s crown. “Revelation Song”, is the last track not led by Travis, and this version, sounding similar to Kari Jobe’s original recording, is as poignant and emotional as ever, as we declare with the team that God is worthy and deserving of all of our praise, as we also sing out ‘…with all creation I sing praise to the King of Kings, You are my everything and I will adore You…’.
Singing this song frequently at the church I attend, it’s nice to see “Man Of Sorrows” present, as Travis brings us a worthy rendition of the Hillsong track. Initially not appreciating the song when it released on Hillsong’s Glorious Ruins, it is with time that this song has won me over, as I have come to appreciate the lyrics of the gospel, and the simplicity yet effectiveness of the music. As Travis and co. unashamedly remind us that ‘…now my debt is paid, it is paid in full, by the precious blood that my Jesus spilled, now the curse of sin, has no hold on me, whom the Son sets free oh is free indeed…’, I find myself singing along and agreeing wholeheartedly with Travis about this very truth that never changes!
“God Is Able”, also recorded previously by Hillsong, is given a stripped down acoustic treatment, as we are introduced to an intimate and personal moment of praise, where Travis sings out amongst the light electric guitar and gentle acoustic guitar that Jesus is able, and ‘…greater than all we seek, greater than all we ask…lifted up, He defeated the grave, raise to life, our God is able…’. The Bethel Music penned “Hope’s Anthem” epitomizes the heart of the album, with Travis singing a slower and reflective worship ballad turned epic anthem, that ardently declares that Jesus is our only Hope, that He is the one we are to be anchored in. As we are reminded Jesus is the One who brings us security and reassurance that He has overcome the grave, Travis has recorded a gem of a song that is one of my favourites from the album! “Never Once”, previously recorded by Matt Redman and One Sonic Society, is the final ‘covered’ song, and is a brilliant take on one of my favourite songs over the past few years. A mid tempo electric guitar based ballad reminding us that God is with us always, and ‘…never once did we ever walk alone, never once did we leave You on Your throne, You are faithful, God You are faithful…’; this song is a great inclusion in an album full of inspirational melodies with sound biblical lyrics.
The title track is the only original song, and is a fun ball of energy, and a wonderful inclusion of this diverse and eclectic track list. A celebration of praise as we declare that Jesus is risen and that we are living proof of Jesus’ resurrection and presence in us, Travis unequivocally reminds us of our security in Jesus, and shouts out that ‘…the power of God is moving in me, the word of God is setting me free, the spirit of God is alive in me, I’m living proof…’. With a gospel, jazz and soul feel to this track, Travis has recorded a gem, and shows us through song how to dance when we are celebrating God and His presence in our lives. Well done Travis and co. for a fantastic album that contains many of my favourite worship songs and some new favourite songs as well!
A thoroughly enjoyable worship album, Travis Cottrell’s I’m Living Proof is one to enjoy if you want to hear a worship album full of recognizable old and new favourites. Critics and listeners may think Travis has done a poor job at only including one original song, but I think that this reflect’s Travis’ heart for worship. Never wanting to put his own ego ahead of Jesus and the attention He deserves, Travis reminds us that it is not the artist that makes the song, but rather the songs that transcend to different artists through the Holy Spirit’s presence. In that sense, this album is necessary for the church, and something that we can all enjoy, regardless if we think Travis should release an all original album. I’m confident that day will come, however until then, let’s listen to these inspiring and encouraging worship songs. Travis and co. should be proud of his achievements and I am sure other listeners will be proud too!
3 songs to listen to: Man of Sorrows, Beneath The Waters (I Will Rise), Hope’s Anthem
RIYL: Jason Crabb, Selah, Charlie Hall, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman