Prime Cuts: Shepherd (featuring Leeland), Reconciler, Available (featuring Dwight Johnson)
Overall Grade: 5/5
Now this is what corporate worship music is all about. Too many worship albums these days are more or less solo recordings where the spotlight is on the individual "star" holding the microphone in front of a stadium of faces. Despite the thousands of people raising their hands before the singer, they are all muted save for their applauses before and after the recording. Not so with Nashville Life Music, they have brought back the "congregational" part of worship back to the genre. Instead of just having one "star" artist grabbing the mic, the bulk of these songs feature a choir of singers. Instead of having music that cater to a sliver of the congregants, these songs know no color or style or taste. Nashville Life Music have juxtaposed disco swirls, hip hop beats, crunchy rock guitar riffs to their blend of 70s soul Gospel, making the listening experience memorable and interesting.
Nashville Life Church is the soundtrack to Nashville Life Church, a local movement that started out of CeCe Winans' living room nine years ago. Grammy-winning songwriters and bandleaders Dwan Hill (Lauren Daigle, Jonny Lang) and Alvin Love III (Cece Winans' son and producer) are the major leaders in their 26-member worship team. In 2017, the team released their independently-released EP "Shine on Us." Two years later, they inked up a deal with Integrity Music where they released their highly successful and critically acclaimed "Taylor House Sessions" EP. "Here for Jesus" is their first full length album with the worship music imprint.
What's most outstanding about the record is no two songs sound alike. Recalling the golden age of the 70s, "Reconciler" then adds fresh hip hop beats showing that the team can reconcile the anchor of tradition with the tides of progress. With the Alvin Love-led "More than Words," who would have thought African-drums would work so well with a chorus of chanting kids and those Michael Jackson's "ooohs"? Just when you thought rock music is dead, the electric guitars get to work overtime on the title cut "Here for Jesus." If you like some singalong Gospel music, take a listen to jovial "I've Got a Reason." Of note is Chaunda Jefferson who handles the lead vocals; she has a voice that has so much faith and power.
But it's not just the ingenuity in the song's execution that is excellent, the quality of the songs is also sublime. "Shepherd," which features Leeland on lead vocals, is a Psalm 23-inspired prayer to look to God. When Leeland sings "My life is better/I like it better/When I am following you" you can't help but worship along. The folkish ballad "Available" is another nerve center. Dwight Johnson sounds so heartfelt when he renders his surrender before Jesus on what is a prayer that deserves to be sung across the globe. Another song worthy of widespread circulation is "In a Little While." Few are the songs that give exposition to Jesus' second coming and this one not only does a great job but the throwback 70s disco sounds recall some of the classic songs by the Pointer Sisters or Gloria Gaynor.
If you are sick and tired of many of today's worship music, don't give up. Give "Here for Jesus" a go. You will find your head twirling, your feet stomping, your lips humming, and your heart worshipping in no time. This is really what worship music ought to sound like!