Release Date: August 28th 2012
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
Karyn Williams- Only You (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
Karyn Williams, the newest signing to Inpop Records, home of veterans Newsboys, Jimmy Needham, Jaci Velasquez, and Mat Kearney; releases her debut album this week. With such a powerful testimony story, from being a child in a family of nineteen kids, moving to Nashville in 2007, to finding out about her father’s cancer; Karyn has crafted 11 honest melodies that are truly Holy Spirit breathed. With influences like Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W Smith, Amy Grant and Sandi Patty; Karyn’s infectious upbeat songs, and moving emotional piano ballads, with strong vocals akin to Janna Long of Avalon and Kerrie Roberts; give her an endearing versatility. In a year where there are many talented new artists blossoming, such as Moriah Peters, Rhett Walker Band and An Epic No Less, Karyn shines amongst them, and is a breath of fresh air! The lead single “Rest In The Hope” is climbing up the US charts and is also changing lives! Being one of my favourite tracks of 2012 alongside MercyMe’s The Hurt and the Healer, and Matthew West’s Forgiveness; no doubt Karyn’s debut makes it to near the top of my ‘2012 best albums’ list!
Starting off with the upbeat guitar based ballad “Call”, this power pop anthem showcases Karyn’s Janna Long-esque vocals as she proclaims that when we need someone to help us, we can call on Jesus. He is guaranteed to answer and have a remedy for us that will be suitable and timely for us! As Karyn reiterates in the chorus ‘…When your faith is broken, and you’re on your knees again; when your hope is stolen and you just can’t find a friend, call, call and He’ll come running…’; all we need to do is call and Jesus will be there. Musically layered with many guitar riffs and a readymade for radio pop single feel, the album opener makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
The happy tunes and uplifting melodies do not stop there with “Every Good Thing”, a bluesy folk type acoustic tune similar to something Josh Wilson or Jonny Diaz would write. With the acoustic guitar at the forefront; this bubbly track speaks about how God’s creation asserts His authority. He created everything in this world, thus every good thing comes from Him. He is the Maker of the stars, and Karyn’s infectious jazz type melody celebrates living life to the fullest and that Jesus is faithful. It’s a brilliantly sung danceable tune full of God given truths! As mentioned by Karyn in the verse ‘…You’re every bit of hope in the middle of a desperate prayer, when what I need is sweet release, Lord You take me there …’, God is in the midst of our situations. He is not silent, and is always working. What a faithful God!
Two album highlights follow- the lead single “Rest In The Hope” and the adoption inspired “Just May Be”. “Rest In The Hope” is a personal song for Karyn, inspired by her father’s battle with cancer, for which he is in remission now. “…He was diagnosed in January of 2011…for months I walked around in that fog praying, ‘Lord help me understand,’ and the whole time I felt like the Lord was saying, ‘You’re not going to understand. You have to trust me. I’ve got this and even though you don’t understand, it doesn’t mean that I’m not still in control.’…That’s a very personal song for me…”. From the very first piano note followed by the words ‘…There you were like always, right in the middle of my lonely…You showed up and called my name, with a love that completely changed me…’, to the last declaration ‘…that I’m gonna rest in the hope that I’m Yours…’, as well as the big stadium anthemic crescendo in the bridge complete with strings; this magical song has impacted my view of resting on and trusting in God. He is always doing something, and everything in our lives can be used for His glory. Karyn’s testimony shows that God is in control, he is ever present and reliable; and we should not question our circumstances. Being a success on radio, “Rest In The Hope” is one of my favourite songs of the year!
It’s not by coincidence that “Just May Be” and “Rest In The Hope” are beside each other in the track list, as both deal with personal issues that are close to Karyn’s heart. Being in a family of 19 children, 14 of them adopted; this song is the starfish story in 3 and a half minutes, which is very uplifting and motivational. A message for anyone wanting to adopt; with a deeper look, this song is applicable to anything and anyone, a la Matthew West’s My Own Little World. It’s hard to imagine being in a large family, but like Steven Curtis Chapman, this is Karyn’s ministry and cause that she believes in. As mentioned by Karyn in the lyrics ‘…you just may be the hope to hold on to, be the hand that pulls them through; a single ray of love that shines the truth…’; “Just May Be” speaks to the core of us and says that everyone should be loved, and it has to start with us, as affirmed by Karyn- ‘…The chorus says, You just may be the answer to a prayer; you just may be the only heaven someone will ever see…You just might be a little piece of heaven in someone’s life today. You just never know…’
On an album, sometimes the middle track meander along following an impressive start. Not so with the offerings of “Banner”, “Waiting In The Rain”, “Hey There” and “Possible”. “Banner”, off Karyn’s 2011 EP, celebrates God’s love and Karyn proclaims multiple times through imagery that God is ‘…the sun and the rain bringing every good thing…Your love is the song in my life, it’s the banner You’re flying over me…’. A piano pop friendly track fit for dancing as well as easy listening and contemplation; this song is based on Psalm 139. God’s banner over all of us is love- He loves each one of us so much. It just boggles the mind how He could love us and, as said by Karyn, ‘…even when we trip and fall and get lost and don’t know where we are headed, we always have His banner of hope, love and protection over us…’. There is nothing we can do to earn the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father. “Waiting In The Rain” is the halfway point, a piano and synth only slower track that highlights Karyn’s powerful and beautiful vocals. It’s a nice change to hear a stripped down acoustic ballad, and Karyn’s vocal ability is at its peak- she’s a joy to listen to! For me this song, describing how when we are in the lowest of lows, God is our comfort, and our shelter, and He helps us weather the storms in our lives; Job springs to mind as a person from the Bible who I could imagine declaring this to God. As mentioned in the chorus ‘…Oh God speak peace into my heart, with just one word I know the clouds will part…’; this plea to God to be with us in the storm doesn’t go unheard- the answer lies in song #7!
“Hey There”, a ballad equally driven by the guitar and keys, and littered with promises from God; is Karyn giving an assurance that God is faithful and is always there. He has been where we walked, and where we haven’t been yet. He’s already been there, and for that very reason we can trust Him with our lives- ‘…He knows right where you are, and what you’re going through; He knows everything you feel because He felt it too…’. Of similar themes to the first track “Call”, the repeat of subject matter is a great thing for Karyn, as it shows the listener an overall arching theme of God’s faithfulness. “Possible” is the black sheep of the 11 tracks, in a good fun way. With experimental electronic music akin to Beckah Shae or Plumb; this progressive rock track telling the bigness of God, shows Karyn singing in a different style, an interesting yet fun move! With Karyn crying out that everything is possible with God ‘…No matter what I’m up against, there is One who makes it all make sense and with Him everything is possible…’, this timely reminder prompts us to trust God with our lives as there is no one more reliable. His plans are bigger than our own, and He sees outside of time. (Notice the running theme of trust in these songs?). Radio pop ballad “Enough For Me” is yet another reassuring song about how Jesus is all we need, with lyrics presented in a more explicit way ‘…You, all I need is You, let it be just You, be enough for me…’. With Karyn seeking God and wanting to go to a deeper level with Him, to feel more, worship and saturate abundantly with Him; you can’t help but praise and raise your hand as well! Karyn’s integrity and passion is clearly contagious and catchy!
The last two tracks are the piano based and acoustic “This Is Freedom” and the title track “Only You”. Co written with Sarah Hart, the hymn like gem is captivating and fascinating to listen to, especially when the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection are explicitly laid out- ‘…This is freedom, You rose for me…This is freedom, for eternity…’. With a no compromise attitude, this is Karyn Williams preaching through song, testifying what Jesus has done in her life, that God gave His live for us, and laid down His life while we were still sinners. With similar themes to the hymn ‘In Christ Alone’, I can almost see “This Is Freedom” becoming a single, and I definitely can picture a concert performance or music video, and the likelihood of a very emotional crowd, as we realise the freedom we have in Christ- “…I want people to understand the freedom and the hope that’s waiting for you in the Lord. He’s there. He’s always waiting for us. It’s up to us to reach out to Him…”.
Finally, “Only You”, the piano based ballad, brings the album full circle as Karyn unequivocally and unashamedly professes her love for Jesus Christ and sings ‘…Only You mend all that I’ve have broken, only You hear what I leave unspoken, only You know how I want to let go for only You…’. We do not have to do extra good deeds to be right with God. We were accepted and redeemed as Jesus died on the cross- in His eyes we are blameless, and all we need to do is believe into that. When that happens, there will only be God- nothing else will matter! Well done Karyn for such a stirring debut! Every track has something to offer, and a hidden treasure just waiting to be explored each time I listen!
“…Music has a way of healing in a way that nothing else can. You can listen to a great speaker and or sit outside on a sunny day and feel better about life, but when you are lost in a song that is speaking to you, there’s nothing quite like it…” This view, taken from Karyn Williams, that music can speak much more volumes than a sermon or creation; is certainly true. Throughout the guitar ballads and the teary moments of emotion and brutal honesty, each one of the 11 gems and treasures captures my heart in a different way, with layers upon layers of insight from God gathered from the lyrical content and equally powerful music. In my opinion, Karyn is destined for big things, with God’s anointing stamped all over her work. Inpop did a right thing in her signing! Well done Karyn! If your sophomore album is half as good as your first, I will still buy it within a heartbeat!
- Call (3:24)
- Every Good Thing (3:08)
- Rest In The Hope (3:58)
- Just May Be (3:23)
- Banner (3:39)
- Waiting in the Rain (4:35)
- Hey There (4:21)
- Possible (3:20)
- Enough For Me (3:35)
- This Is Freedom (4:11)
- Only You (4:08)
Favourite Tracks: Call, Rest In The Hope, Just May Be, Hey There, Possible, This is Freedom