Prime Cuts: Sparrow, Run, Lazarus
Overall Grade: 4/5
Three years after her last live album, Maranda Curtis returns with Die to Live. Recorded live in Toronto, these 15 tracks (with 13 new songs) are her most personal songs to date. In between these two projects, Curtis suffered the loss of her beloved mother. Many of the tracks therefore were birthed out of her healing process. To aid her in bringing these songs to live, she has enlisted the help of co-writers such as Phillip Bryant, Bart Orr, Justin Savage, Rich Tolbert Jr., Ernest Vaughan, and Don Moen.
This is Curtis' most adventurous album to date. Unlike many of her peers who feel that they need to open a live album with a thunderous upbeat belter, Curtis begins with a choral piece. Introduced by a piano and strings interlude that last for over two minutes before the choir starts singing, "Never Die" begins the record on a heavenly note. This segues into the sing-along high-energy "Freedom." With the use of acoustic guitars on the folk-leaning "To Know Me," Curtis brings out an intimacy that is affecting.
Current single "Lazarus" brings to life the theme of the record. Standing in the shoes of Lazarus, Curtis sings of what it means to experience the defeat of death in this powerful ballad. The title cut "Die to Live" sounds like a lullaby in the sense that it is delivered with a nourishing warmth. "We Lift You Up," "Overcome," and "Amazing God" are Curtis' attempts at crafting a modern worship song. However, the lack of sustaining hooks in these songs make them sound repetitive and forgettable.
The later part of the record is redeemed by "Run." A re-telling of the prodigal son returning home to the father, this ballad is bound to bring many Kleenex moments. "Sparrow" is easily the album's lodestar. Going for a country-based backing, "Sparrow" is a newly re-written piece of the hymn "His Eye is on the Sparrow." It's refreshing different from anything Curtis has had ever done, and it's performed with verve. Sure, there are some spotty moments, but this record is genuine-sounding, adventurously executed, and soaked with Gospel themes that strike both at the heart and mind.