Release Date: October 9th 2012
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
Brandon Heath- Blue Mountain (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
“…I wanted to get out of myself a little bit on this one…I like to write story songs and I like characters…some people can be like Blue Mountains. In the distance, they are mysterious and majestic and you can’t touch them, but when you get up close to them, you realize they are just brown and green. They aren’t blue at all. For some reason, that got my mind going. So, I started writing songs about different characters…” For all of Brandon Heath’s previous singles, from “Give Me Your Eyes” and “Leaving Eden”, to “Your Love” and “I’m Not Who I Was”; the 4th release Blue Mountain is his boldest yet! Not your most typical CCM album, Brandon tries his hand at bluegrass, folk, country, and all other types of genres in between in this musically diverse and daring album, with plenty of lyrical motifs and imagery to swallow and ponder. Yet Brandon never wavers in his message of hope and peace in the midst of the frailties of the human condition, sometimes telling his own story through his made up characters. As he continues to remind us through his storytelling and his strong songwriting that as we search for Jesus in the everyday activities and people we encounter; we find the beauty and peace that God gives us, and the sense of what God is calling us to do, Brandon’s lyrics are similar in style at times to Andrew Peterson, Jason Gray, and Nichole Nordeman. This has challenged me, as Brandon’s musically varied style is ever evolving, and a joy to see and hear him break the mould and deliver a fantastic and well produced album! Produced by Dan Muckala, Blue Mountain has stretched me musically and lyrically, and has me nearly a country covert; as Brandon tells us that “…I hope listeners will take a journey with me; that they’ll step out of their lives for a moment to explore Blue Mountain and its’ characters. My hope is that they’ll find themselves there…”
Opening with the acoustic guitar driven country like “The Harvester”, which is very diverse musically, with hand claps, light percussion and a banjo; this prophetic type track inspires us to preach the gospel even when we aren’t in the mood. In my opinion, this track is inspired by Matthew 28: 16-20; and speaks about how even when we are feeling down, hopeless and purposeless, God gives us His promise that ‘…the master is coming, we are not done yet…’ even though we feel like we endlessly need to suit up, put on a brave face, and face the day. Life may seem mundane, but as Brandon sings ‘…work through the pain and the rain will shine, come on y’all we still got time…’, each one of us has a purpose, duty, and job to do, by God, which is to bring people into the Kingdom, until the Second Coming of Christ. A daunting task, Brandon’s “The Harvest” gives us sound encouragement and is a catalyst for us to be living according to God’s will, not just breathing and existing. We are to be the hands and feet and be Jesus in the places that people can’t see Him, and that should amaze and excite us immensely!
“Jesus In Disguise” is the first single on this album, and with a captivating music video, is the backbone of the album’s central theme! With Brandon explaining his heart behind the song- “Jesus isn’t always in the obvious, but from busy city streets to the rural roads of ‘Blue Mountain,’ Jesus is always there to be found. You just have to know what to look for and be willing to look for it”; we are met with an honest plea and prayer from Brandon, as he asks God to ‘…open my eyes as wide as I can, blind as I am…’. We can all lose sight of where God is in the midst of this busy world with distractions too yet He is all around us, in creation, in the words of our friends, family, strangers, and even those we may not get along with. Sometimes it is hard to see God, however as Brandon cleverly relates this song back to when Jesus came to earth and how the Pharisees ‘…were looking for a king, you could never recognise Jesus in disguise…’; we need to come to God with an open heart, and only then will we see Him, and only then will we be truly satisfied. With the country influence seeped in with an electric guitar focus, smooth and slick vocals, as well as grandiose drums and an anthemic epic sound, Brandon sets the tone for a thought provoking album!
And what a confronting album it is! The title track, a slow southern country twangy like track is about Brandon inviting us all to visit ‘Blue Mountain’ where ‘…above the crowds and busy crowds, you’ll swear you’ll never leave…’. Superficially it seems like this song is about going on a road trip, however seeing that this town is an invention from Brandon’s imagination, and that the town resembles him as a person, the underlying message of the track, and the whole album, is for us to take a look inside ourselves, for the hidden things that God is showing us but we have overlooked. I guarantee, if we start looking, we’ll unearth something of ourselves that is truly magical, and our God given purpose. “Diamond” carries on from the theme of ‘Blue Mountain’, as Brandon sings amidst the hand claps and the groovy temp ‘…I got treasure up in heaven, I got dirt all over me, I have only scratched the surface of the man I’m meant to be…’; a reference to how we all have potential in ourselves just waiting to be unleashed when we ask God to come into our hearts and open our dreams and talents, so that we can be who God wants us to be. When we ask God to take control, our ‘diamonds’ can be found! “Love Will Be Enough For Us”, as country as Brandon sings; is directed to his future wife, and that he’s always be committed to her. A deeper look at the song; and one can see that Brandon’s hidden message is that true love conquers all adversities, and that when we accept the love that Jesus has for us, we can truly love others. This notion also segues into “Love Does”; giving us a sense of hope in this world, as Brandon sings about God’s love. This song could be seen as “Your Love Part II” as well; as we learn to understand that even when our family and friends do not understand the hardships of life we seem to be going through, the love of Jesus does. When we feel like ‘…a renegade, you’re an outlaw, a lost crusade…’, and we don’t know who we are, let’s be content and happy that ‘…Love does…’!
I had no idea the first time I listened to “Paul Brown Petty”, how it fit; yet it is the most personal song on the album, apparently a very close impression and portrait of Brandon’s grandfather ‘…He’s just always been one of my heroes…when things were really rough here in Nashville with my parent’s divorce, I could always go back to Waverly, Tenn., which is where my grandparents lived. I always felt at ease around him. A lot of people will never know who he was, but he made a big impact on me. He was a part of building my character and my story; through this song I hope to pay tribute to him…’. While not a song about explicitly Jesus, this is a song about life, and it really does make me think about my heroes and those I look up to, and how they model Jesus to me. “In The Dust”, with an anthemic build and based on Ecclesiastes, is also very confronting. About the transience of life and how our 80 odd years of life is minute, and like a grain of sand on a beach compared to the eternity of heaven; this somewhat morbid yet revealing track- ‘…every moment that we borrow, every token that we’ve earned, was His in the beginning, and it’s His to take away…’; really makes us think about the most important things in life. As Brandon has cleverly poetically outlined that ‘…We can’t run from what is coming down the mountainside…’; it is sobering that death could be at our door any minute, but it should wake us up, and live a life more so for Jesus, than for ourselves. Well done Brandon for such thought provoking tracks that shake us up.
“Dyin’ Day” is even more impacting and emotional than “In The Dust”, with Brandon taking on the person of a condemned man in prison, in an hauntingly eerie atmosphere, with a rousing crescendo as the persona asks God for forgiveness and repents of his sins on his death bed: “…I wanted to write about a guy who had led a life so evil that it ultimately put him in prison where he’s since lost his identity – he’s been reduced to his prison number. The redemption is it’s here that he finds a level of forgiveness that most of us don’t even allow ourselves…”. Reminding me of the film “The Green Mile”, as well as Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Free”; this tough and bitter pill to swallow reminds us that even when we feel as if we are too far gone, we are not. Jesus can help us even when we feel we have wronged him beyond our salvation. That is the beauty of grace! The last two tracks “Hands of the Healer”, and “He Paid It All” also strike out at me, as some of Brandon’s most poetic and reflective music he’s ever recorded. “Hands of the Healer” is an acoustic guitar driven ballad, with Brandon singing about turning the other check, not seeking revenge, yet more than that the song is about giving everything to God, and trusting in Him, even when we feel like we do not understand. Reminding me of Matthew 6: 25-34, this country song of reassurance is very freeing, and such a powerful track like this can create breakthroughs in any person, particularly with the lyrics ‘…leave it in the hands of the Father,…of Jesus and walk away…’.
‘He Paid It All’ is an airy, graceful yet brooding track about Jesus’ death on the cross, and how Jesus paid the price of all of humanity and that our last day here on earth will not be our last day ever, as we will be in heaven with Jesus. I could not think of a better last song on Blue Mountain than this; and as Brandon creates a beautiful moment of surrender and utter adoration to the One who forgave our mistakes and takes us in just as we are, I am very proud at Brandon’s maturity as a songwriter and a musician. With a majestic build-up of drums, guitars, and Brandon’s southern style that he’s masterfully crafted; this album closer has me liking country music more than I thought!
Coming up from left field, Brandon’s 4th album is pleasantly good and refreshing, as my doubts are left by the first note of “The Harvester”! With a smorgasbord of genres attached to this varied project, inclusive of sombre and uplifting ballads, personal stories of characters revealing the human condition, as well as upbeat guitar twangy southern melodies; I am able to feel reenergised and revitalised as Brandon opens all of our eyes to the message that God loves us and that no one is condemned in the eyes of Christ! A well written and sung album; this release may rival the Christmas albums on the same day (October 9th); and is a must for fans of country and alternative music. And for fans of Brandon Heath and acoustic material, as well as listeners with open ears!
- The Harvester (4:18)
- Jesus In Disguise (3:41)
- Blue Mountain (3:08)
- Diamond (3:38)
- Love Will Be Enough (3:43)
- Love Does (3:54)
- Paul Brown Petty (3:34)
- In The Dust (4:13)
- Dyin’ Day (3:50)
- Hands of the Healer (3:58)
- He Paid It All (4:58)
Favourite Tracks: The Harvest, Jesus In Disguise, Love Does, In The Dust, Hands Of The Healer, He Paid It All