Chris Tomlin “Chris Tomlin and Friends” Album Review

chris tomlin

Prime Cuts: God Who Listens (Featuring Thomas Rhett), Forever Home (Featuring Florida Georgia Line), Power (Featuring Bear Rinehart)

Overall Grade: 3.5/5

Chris Tomlin has been making worship albums for aeon of years. For album #13, the renown worship leader, who is known for classic church songs such as "How Great is Our God," "Our God" and "Indescribable," has decided to branch out into contemporary country music. With the affinity country music and CCM have had in sharing similar themes of love, family, and God, the marriage between the two genres is not novel.  "Chris Tomlin and Friends" finds Tomlin working with Florida Georgia Line (FGL).  FGL's Corey Crowder produced 12 out of 13 tracks with David Garcia producing one track and Ed Cash co-producing one.  

As a result, about half of the songs broach into Christian country music, with songs that speak about God rather than to God. And to solidify Tomlin's stake in country music, a red carpet of country stars, such as FGL, Brett Young, Russell Dickerson, Chris Lane, RaeLynn, Cassadee Pope and Thomas Rhett, find themselves sharing the microphone with Tomlin. While the other half of the album remains within the familiar boundaries of modern worship.

The country material work better than the CCM offerings. Despite a tad cliche (with the references to "the porch swing," "fireflies" and "old six string"), "Thank You Lord" (which features Thomas Rhett and FGL) grooves along an accessible melody that is a delight to listen to. FGL again shines with the descriptive ode to heaven on the shuffle "Forever Home." Sounding vocally pristine, Lady A add their vocals to "Who You Are to Me." RaeLyn, who sings her heart out, is sadly let down by her song. "Chase Me Down" is loud but is melodically a throwaway nonsense. Thomas Rhett flares better with the more touching introspective ballad "God Who Listens."

As for the more CCM-leaning songs: "Power" (which features NEEDTOBREATHE's Bear Rhinehart) is the best offering here. Unlike "Be the Moon" which is structured around the tacky image that God is the sun and we are the moon, the prevailing image of "Power" comes from Psalm 20. It's one of the few songs that actually features Chris Tomlin at his vocal best. Too often on this record, Tomlin takes such a back seat to his guests that he is hardly heard.  Blessing Offor who joins Tomlin on the piano-based "Tin Roof" is not bad.  But the same cannot be said about the messy "Reaching for You" (featuring We the Kingdom)" which is the perfect example of sloppy songwriting.

It's easy to be sidelined by the glamorous list of guest artists. Truth be told, most of them invest 100% or more of themselves to the parts they were assigned to.  The downfall of this project is in two areas: while Tomlin is known for crafting anthems churches can sing to, there's not one of that calibre here. Second, though this record bears his name, Tomlin plays a subsidiary role as a vocalist.  One gets the feeling that this doesn't really feel like a Chris Tomlin record. Rather, it feels like a compilation album featuring Tomlin as a guest vocalist. As they say, a kitchen can't have too many cooks; likewise a record can't have too many stars.  Or it will become so glaring that the vision of the album is lost.



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