This album is a breath of fresh air
Music Review by Luchae Williams
While doing a report, for Gateway News, on the deserving Dove Awards win by South African Gospel star, Neville D and his co-writer and pal, Israel Houghton, I stumbled on 2015 Dove Newcomer of the Year, Lauren Daigle. My first thoughts were that I don’t know her at all, she must be really new! But with that said I knew that winning the prestigious newcomer award meant that she must be worth her weight. And listening to her debut album confirmed just that!
The 24 year old Louisiana native is a member of North Point Ministries in Los Angeles, where she leads worship regularly. She is pretty new on the music front and was signed to label; Centricity Music just the other day (in 2013) after label heads heard her incredible vocals while she was backing for local band, The Assemblie.
Her testimony is pretty incredible and is also a reminder to live your life on purpose and IN purpose! When she was 15 years old she contracted a devastating illness that forced her to retract from high school, to be home schooled for 2 years. Unable to be around many people, because of an immune deficiency, she realised that the solitude was a God-plan as He began to use the quiet times to speak to her, while she emerged herself in music, singing and writing songs. On her website she talks about her mindset before the virus and how she got lost trying to be grown up and serious. She had then decided to focus on a career in the medical field and music was the last thing on her mind. She shared: “How did I get distracted from what my true passion is? I NEED to be singing.’ He really brought me through all of that season to pour in a passion for ministry and a passion for music.”
A few months after being signed, the song bird released an EP which featured the now award-winning single, ‘How can it be.” It peaked at number 16 on the Christian Songs Airplay Chart, which made many sit up and listen! Her debut album, also titled ‘How can it be’, was released a short 6 months later, debuting at number 1 on both the Billboard’s Christian Albums Chart and the iTunes Christian Albums Chart.
On first listen to the album, I immediately thought that she sounded like a mash up between Adele, Kim Walker Smith and UK singer, Becky Hill. Her vocal is what I would describe as “smoky sweet” – filled with both an innocence and a knowing at the same time.
Songs of grace and hope
Title track, “How can it be”, is perfect for her voice. Written by Jason Ingram, Jeff Johnson and Paul Mabury, the song was actually written a few months before they met Daigle and was meant to be recorded by another singer. Mabury shared that he feels that God planted that song in his head the moment he spoke to Daigle and he asked her if she would like to sing it. The rest, as they say, is history. The track speaks about bringing your guilt and shame to the cross and allowing God to give you a clean slate. Ingram shared that he thought there was no better way than to end the chorus with the powerful, thought provoking question: how can it be? How can it be that the God of all creation would plead our cause and choose to right our wrongs so that He could have a relationship with us? I am not surprised that this song won the 2015 K-Love Song of the Year award, among it’s many accolades. It really is a beautiful, deep impacting song.
A track that hit me hard was the opening song of the album. Titled “First”, the track gets right in there from the opening lines where Daigle sings “Before I bring my need/ I will bring my heart/ Before I lift my cares/ I will lift my arms.” Wow. With a heartfelt chorus that speaks about seeking God first, I can’t imagine not being moved after allowing this song to minister to you.
Another worship song that touched me is “Salt and Light”. It is a beautiful, guitar driven love song and happens to one of Daigles favorites. She shared: “I wrote the song in my old apartment and thought, ‘Ok Lord, I just have so much joy in my heart that I want to make sure that my life brings a beautiful song to you. I want my life to sing to you.” Accompanied by violins and a stirring but simple arrangement, one can’t help but hear that this song is being sung from a really deep place.
I really appreciated Daigles rich, gritty vocals on “Trust in You” – a song that she co-wrote with Mabury and Michael Farren. This upbeat track has a really catchy chorus with words that reminded me that we don’t need to understand the WHY, as long as we know WHO is in control. The lyric says: “If you don’t move the mountains I’m needing you to move… I will trust in you!” I really love this message. This one was for me.
It seems that this album is full of songs that remind us about the promises of God and who we are in Christ. Another song that really inspired me was “I am Yours,” According to Daigle it was written with the intention to remind listeners of their place in the Lord. “It talks about being weak. Sometimes after a stressful week, we’re tired and drained but when we find security in the Lord and we can say ‘I’m yours,’ that’s when the strength is there,” she explained.
Powerful track, “Loyal” really showcases the richness of Daigle’s vocals (which sounds eerily similar to Adele’s in this song). This track is so potent and as with the other songs, hits you right in your soft spot from the opening lyric right through to the last line of the song. I appreciate how Daigle is able to deliver a song with a sweet, soulful vulnerability and then around the next corner takes it up to a different level with soaring vocals that really show off her impressive range. And she does so with ease!
I must make special mention of my favorite track on this album: the groovy hope-song, “Oh Lord.” I love the honesty in the lyric especially where she sings in the opening “Sometimes I feel like I’m coming undone!” And how true this is for so many of us, but we often feel the need to put on our strong face, when God wants to be the rock that we stand on! The hook of the song is my favorite part, where she sings: “I will stand my ground/Where hope can be found!”
Fitting album closer, “Once and for all”, accompanied by nothing but a piano, again showcases the beauty and passion in Daigle’s vocals. The piercing chorus beckons us to put ourselves aside and focus our attention on the King of Kings. I think that the simple way it is delivered really puts such emphasis on the message behind the song. It is the perfect ending to an amazing album.
This album has really taken me on a journey of getting over myself! The songs are penned in a no nonsense way, with melodies and lyrics that capture your attention from the get go. Filled with messages of hope and grace, this album is a breath of fresh air at a time where I’ve found that many are teetering on the edge of “everything sounds the same”. It is possibly one of my favourite releases of 2015 and I am confident that it is a worthy addition to any music collection.