A music review by Luchae Williams
Dove award-winning songstress Kari Jobe released her fifth studio album, The Garden, in February 2017. The album marks her first project as wife and mother, after the birth of her baby boy, Canyon, a year prior.
In a moving account of the vision behind the album, Jobe explains how each song was birthed out of a place of brokenness as she and her family leaned on Christ while mourning the loss of her sister’s stillborn daughter, James Ivy.
“It just shattered my heart. It was so, so hard,” Jobe shares. “It wrecked me—just the weight of unanswered prayers. I was trying to walk in peace when I didn’t feel peaceful and find my rest when my spirit didn’t feel rested.”
It was in the process of dealing with this pain, that God began to reveal His redemptive and restorative power to her, while she looked out the window of their new home.
She explains how she caught sight of the garden, in full bloom, with thick ivy lacing its way through an archway: “I’m standing in this garden. There’s ivy growing, and I just started to realise, ‘God, You’re moving in a way that is different than what I asked for, but You are moving. Those seeds were planted years ago for it to be the way that it was that day for me.”
“Something in my spirit started to rustle. Life was coming back. What felt dead in my heart was starting to wake up. It was like I’d been in this place of being numb in my walk with the Lord, but something just started blooming in my heart.”
Through the healing and dealing process, Jobe began penning songs that are far weightier than her previous offerings. These songs hold an intensity and ethereal quality that marks them as distinctively different from her former contemporary-pop albums.
Title track, The Garden, introduces listeners to the album with a quiet intro. Jobe begins to sing the story of her testimony, building up to a stunning crescendo that says: “Faith is rising up like ivy/Reaching for the light/Hope is stirring deep inside me/Making all things right!” This song, and others like it, show the journey that Jobe and her family has been on, as they witness God amidst their heartbreak.
Another song that was birthed out of intense pain is the catchy I will sing. The song was written immediately after Jobe learnt of the death of her neice and its breathtaking message is one that will speak to the hearts of all those who are resilient in Christ. The chorus, especially, is my favorite part, as she fervently declares: “Even when my breath is weak/I will sing/I will sing/Even in my suffering/I will sing/I will sing…”
I appreciated the addition of Miracles — a track originally written by Chris Quilala preceding the stillborn death of his son, Jethro, in December 2014. This is another unapologetically raw track that speaks about the God of our healing who is able to do all things. I found that the aching in Jobe’s vocal added another layer of meaning to the song, making it a fitting addition indeed.
Superbly produced and well-written songs, such as Speak to me and Lover of my soul take listeners on a journey with the singer. Both had me on my knees.
The more congregation-styled songs on the album, such as Elevation Worship’s Here as in Heaven and the anthemic The cause of Christ are definite winners.
But of the pick, I definitely enjoyed the Easter-themed, Oh the power, the most. The track paints a picture of the last days of Jesus Christ, in the garden of Gethsemane, eventually leading up to his last few breaths on Calvary. It moved me to tears and I found myself belting along with the chorus: “Redeemer, crowned in endless praise/My Savior, name above all names/King Jesus, take the highest place!”
Another favorite is heartsong, Heal our land, that in essence is a prayer for all the nations of the earth. The song has a catchy hook and a triumphant bridge that has the potential to become a powerful declaration, when sung in a congregational setting. The song invites the Spirit of God to His bride and speaks about Christ — our hope and salvation during a time filled with destitution.
One of the album closers, Come alive, holds a special place in my heart. The simplicity of the lyric and the track’s memorable melody even had my two year old singing along, “I come alive/I come alive/In your presence/In your presence!” The song brings across a yearning for God to have His way in our lives. It is uncomplicated and gets right to it, encouraging you to sing along as you build up an expectancy for more of the Holy Spirit.
For those who have come to love and appreciate Kari Jobe’s more contemporary, modern take on worship, this offering may come as a slight surprise. The album is like nothing she has ever released but I am thankful that she followed the leading of the Spirit, during its planning and production.
These songs are clearly birthed out of a deep intimacy, as she experienced the rawness of life and the healing that only staying close to the Father can bring. Jobe has been and will continue to be one of my favorite worship leaders. I highly recommend this album.