Miriam Webster “Faithful” Album Review

Miriam Webster

Prime Cuts: Made Me Glad, Loving Kindness, Peace

Overall Grade: 4.5/5

Over the years, Hillsong Church has had nurtured countless protégés who have had carved out successful solo careers for themselves.  This includes former worship pastor Darlene Zschech, songwriter Mia Fieldes (who co-wrote Zach Williams' #1 smash "Chainbreaker"), crossover phenom Brooke Fraser, and Miriam Webster.  Going back to Hillsong's 2002 "Blessed," Webster had already been penning songs and leading worship on the mega-church's frontline together with Darlene Zschech and Reuben Morgan.  Over the years, Webster has had penned some of the Aussie church's finest songs including "Made Me Glad," "Exceeding Joy," "I Will Love," "Welcome in This Place" and "You Are Faithful." 

Precisely because of her success at Hillsong Church, Webster was courted by recording labels to pursue a solo career in the US.  This has resulted in her solo debut album "Made Me Glad."  After the album's promotional life petered out, Webster returned back to Australia. Most recently she's back serving as one of the worship leaders with Darlene Zschech at HopeUC in Australia. "Faithful" is Webster's much anticipated since her 2010's "Made Me Glad." 

On first glance, fans are going moan with disappointment. After seven lingering years of waiting, what we get is a "best of" collection of sorts.  Seven out of the songs have been re-recordings of the songs on "Made Me Glad." Four songs are reincarnations of songs that have had been first appeared on Hillsong Worship's precious live recordings.  And as far as new songs are concerned, there's essentially only one, "Forever Thankful." But don't let the dearth of new material deter you from getting this record.  Webster's great mettle as a songwriter is that she has a refreshing ability to craft songs that have an eternal congregational life.  "Made Me Glad," a Webster original that was first recorded by Zschech and the Hillsong team fifteen years ago, still has that awe-inspiring ability to bring down the majesty of Christ in worship.

Another song without an expiration date is the evergreen-sounding "Loving Kindness." Formerly sung as a duet with Zschech, here Webster sings with an uncredited backing vocalist.  With its crescendo Christ-exalting chorus, "Loving Kindness" calls to mind some of Hillsong's classics such as "Worthy is the Lamb" and "From the Inside Out."  However, just a query of curiosity, why is the song called "Loving Kindness" when the titular is only a phrase hidden in the verse never to be repeated again in the song?  "Peace" (formerly from "Made Me Glad") gets a fuller sound with the augmentation of heavier electric guitars. Webster is vocally on fire:  you can feel the pregnant power of the Holy Spirit bursting forth when she sings: "Whenever I've cried out He's heard and He delivers me, sets my feet on a rock." 

Most heartfelt is "Fall on Your Knees."  Though the song doesn't have the chord complexities of some of today's worship songs, the subtle simplicity of Webster's (almost) plaintive-sounding alto is blessing to the heart. Of the four songs Webster wrote for Hillsong Church, Webster is particularly effective especially in the way she uses her falsetto on the worshipful "You're Faithful." Giving Hillsong's original bombast a recess, Webster gives "Welcome in This Place" a folky introduction before delving into the ethos of the song.  "Forever Thankful," the album's sole new song, is right in the alley of what Webster has been doing best. A gorgeous ballad that brings beauty and gratitude to the cross of Jesus Christ; this is the type of songs that truly matter.

Authentically heartfelt, melodiously rich and worshipfully executed; "Faithful" reminds us what a gem Miriam Webster is.  However, shame on the fact that this album faithfully reprises far too many tracks from her previous release.  And after all these years of waiting, it feels almost criminal for the album to grace us with only one new song. 


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