Zach Williams – A Hundred Highways

Provident Label Group / Essential Records

Release Date: September 30th 2022

Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre

Zach Williams A Hundred Highways (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Big Tent Revival
  2. Up There, Down Here
  3. Sunday’s Comin’
  4. Heart of God
  5. Like a Billy Graham Revival
  6. Jesus’s Fault (feat. Walker Hayes)
  7. Praise Opens Prisons
  8. Lookin’ For You
  9. That’ll Preach
  10. I Got You
  11. Love is a Battleground
  12. Holy Rollin’
  13. Flesh & Bone (We Remember)
  14. Far Too Good To A Man Like Me
  15. Plan For Me

Everyone knows Zach Williams. Or at least they should, with his hit song ‘Chain Breaker’, being what I reckon, one of CCM’s most charted songs on radio for the last 6 – 7 years. Zach’s rise in popularity has been surreal, more like from a movie or TV show than anything else. With the release of Chain Breaker both as an EP in September 2016 and as a full length 10 track album in January 2017, alongside a follow-up full-length album Rescue Story that came in 2019; this now-once-in-a-rock-band-now-reformed pastor and Provident Label Group signee has captured our hearts with his southern rock/gospel music atmosphere, in a similar vein to that of Crowder or Third Day. Even if we may not enjoy the southern gospel genre that much, we all have heard of the song “Chain Breaker”, along with his other radio hits like ‘Old Church Choir’, ‘Survivor’, ‘Less Like Me’, ‘There Was Jesus’ and ‘Fear is a Liar’, to name a few. Zach’s move from being in a mainstream rock band, to pursuing a solo Christian music career after an encounter with God in the early 2010s, has resulted in music that is honest, hopeful, raw and emotive. His first full length album received plenty of acclaim, and in 2018, still riding the Chain Breaker album wave, Zach unveiled an EP titled Survivor: Live From Harding Prison, full of songs and stories that have been recorded when he was invited to sing a few songs and share his testimony for people inside Harding Prison. The EP of 6 songs was enough to garner a Grammy nomination for best CCM album of that particular year- the songs were earnest and honest, hopeful, and encouraging, as he relates to and encourages prison inmates through the tracks.

Zach also released his Billboard Music Awards nominated Rescue Story in late 2019, and with singles like ‘Rescue Story’, ‘Less Like Me’, ‘There Was Jesus’ and ‘Walk With Me’, Rescue Story fast became one of my favourite albums of 2019. At the end of 2021, Zach released Rescue Story: Deluxe Edition that featured the standout new songs like ‘Rattle’, ‘Empty Grave’, ‘Good to Know’ and ‘Turn it Over’. I reviewed the album in mid-2021, as I continued to appreciate Zach’s very own enthusiastic and passionate voice. Zach also revealed a Christmas album at the end of 2021, I Don’t Want Christmas To End, where I reviewed here, and was an album that was bound to be a fan-favourite amongst people who love CCM or people who love southern-gospel music (or even both). Fast-forward to 2023, and Zach has indeed once again delivered yet another powerful album for us to listen to. A Hundred Highways released in September 2022, and while I’m writing this ‘review’ around a year late, I do note, appreciate, and respect Zach’s ability to continuously create engaging and captivating music. Sure, I’m late to the party in terms of a ‘review’ for this album, but having said that, I’m still reminded through Zach’s latest record, that his level of maturity and skill keeps on being refined and impressive as each album release happens. This album, though on the long-ish side (15 tracks), is still great for any Zach Williams fan, or any fan of CCM and southern gospel music in general. Nominated for a Dove Award for Best Pop/Contemporary album of the year at this year’s Dove Awards; Zach’s newest stands tall amongst the plethora of albums released last year; and is continuing to be a powerhouse singer-songwriter in the music industry today.

Let me just say that this isn’t really an album review. There’s publications like; Worship Leader, The Christian Beat, and the Blues Town Music that have voiced their thoughts, and maybe, just maybe, one year out from the album actually being released, I dunno if anyone really wants to hear what I have to say about the album. But having said that, what I will say is this- whatever it is, this new album seemingly hasn’t captured the ‘magic’, ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’ that Zach’s first and second albums had- don’t get me wrong. I love and appreciate A Hundred Highways, and songs like ‘Heart of God’, ‘Jesus’s Fault’ and the album opener ‘Big Tent Revival’ are great standouts. But maybe it’s the bloated 15-track list that makes the album as a whole feel a little imposing compared to Zach’s previous albums. Maybe it’s because there’s a lack of radio presence for the album as a whole (aside from ‘Heart of God’ and ‘Jesus’s Fault’, no other song from this album has gone to radio…yet)), or maybe it’s because it’s been a year since the album release, and I haven’t felt the urge to review the album for this whole time. Whatever the case, A Hundred Highways hasn’t left a marking impression on myself as I thought it was gonna make. Despite this, the album is still recommended for any Zach Williams fans, or even any fans of southern gospel music on the whole. Where does that leave me? Maybe I’ll listen to the album once again after this little ‘review’- sure upon first listen, there’s songs like ‘Heart of God’, ‘Jesus’s Fault’ and ‘Big Tent Revival’ that shine through, but as I glance through the song list at a deeper level, there’re other songs, like ‘Sunday’s Comin’, ‘Praise Opens Prisons’, ‘Love is a Battleground’ and ‘Far Too Good to a Man Like Me’, that could also become standouts for me personally, if given another listen to again from start to finish. Whatever the case, this album, from what I’ve heard, is classic Zach to the tee, and maybe if the album as a whole was more promoted and songs went more to radio on a regular basis, then maybe, someone like me would become more interested in this album generally.

15 songs, in general, is too long for any album, and it shows on A Hundred Highways. Sure, these songs separately are good, and hearing these songs just in isolation is still good. But to hear this album in one ‘cohesive’ block? For me, it was a challenge, and still is. Nothing against Zach personally, but I felt (and still feel) connected more to his previous 2 albums compared to this. Then again, maybe I’ll change my mind in a few months after a few more listens. One thing I know is true- that Zach writes from the heart, and this is still evidently true on this album also. Kudos to Zach for creating this album, even if my enjoyability wasn’t as high as even I hoped it’d be.

4 songs to listen to: Heart of God, Jesus’s Fault, Big Tent Revival, Love Is A Battleground

Score: 3.5/5

RIYL: Casting Crowns, needtobreathe, Third Day, Walker Hayes, Blake Shelton

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