Release Date: July 10th 2012
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
Wow! What an impact 37 minutes of music makes! My preconceptions and stereotypes of country music have been completely turned on their head now, and I have Rhett Walker Band and their Essential Records debut Come To The River to thank for that! With a southern rock flavor comparable to Third Day and needtobreathe; what was once an album I was apprehensive at even listening to, has quickly inserted itself in the forefront of a genre that I am now starting to be interested in. CCM shouldn’t be able to fit into a box, and Rhett Walker Band have stretched my musical preferences in so many ways. Ranging from radio pop hits to upbeat grunging guitar head bangers; to slower twangy ballads, Rhett and his friends explore the entire country genre repertoire. To top that all off; Rhett has an unbelievable testimony story, and Come To The River showcases some of the most vulnerable writing I have heard in a long time!
In typical country fashion, and a stirring Mark Lee like guitar solo; “Gonna Be Alright” kicks off the road trip; and has an outback feel to it, as Rhett delves into proverbial weights on our shoulders and how we deal with them. Hitting the straps with loads of electric guitars; this simple melody showcases Rhett’s songwriting and appealing southern voice, akin to Mac Powell. Speaking about the relatable topic of feeling ‘…like my hands are tied and they’re bound together by strands of lies, and there’s things I told myself I can deny…’; Rhett gives the listener a hope that we can rely on- Jesus will be with us, and ‘…with You, it’s gonna be alright…’. Even though the song is lyrically simple, there’s a kind of enchanting sense of enjoyment that Rhett delivers, certainly carrying on to the 2nd track.
The title track “Come To The River” carries on musically from track #1; and then turns into a celebratory worship anthem- a jovial laid back song of communion to Jesus. I can just picture the song being sung in front of a campfire- it has that earthy and fun tone, ala Matt Maher’s Turn Around and Starfield’s The Kingdom. With the hip and trendy folk nature of the acoustic guitar and a unique tempo; this song was made for dancing! As I worship along in abandon to this potential single, I can totally agree with Rhett’s declaration that we all can ‘…come to the river, lay yourself down, let your heart be found…drink from the cup I poured, and thirst no more…’. Jesus is the well we can all drink from!
The edgiest track on the album- “Make Me New”- is next, which was included on X2012 earlier this year, and is one of my favourites, partly due to the musical experimentation. This power anthem is full of grunging guitars, soaring synth melodies and electronic effects, sometimes the genre swaying between earthy country and head banging rock. And in the midst of this musical smorgasbord of choice; Rhett’s vocals and unwavering faith stand firm, as he proclaims ‘..oh, now’s the time, to stand up and feel alive, oh, strength runs through, oh Lord can you make me new?…’. This cry of desperation of asking God to mould us and shape us to be more like Him, brings tears to my eyes. Rhett Walker and his band are sure to strike a chord with many in this upbeat tearjerker; leading into the first single and an even more emotional rollercoaster of a journey.
If you want to hear Rhett’s salvation story, look no further than “When Mercy Found Me”; the first single encompassing all genres, from adult contemporary to rock. With the potential to be heard across many formats of Christian radio; the words ‘…living my life so wild and free finally caught up; oh it left me broken; left me hopeless, but that’s where I met Jesus…’ have given me an insight as to how drastic Rhett’s situation was. At 17 he became a dad, with no real income and stability. Since that point, the now 25 year old and his wife April, have turned their lives around, with Rhett now leading worship in his hometown church! What better first single than one describing his own personal journey! Hats off to Rhett and the band- in a time where CCM usually plays it safe, it’s nice to hear a song break the mould and grab my attention: “…It’s radio friendly, but there’s an edge, and it doesn’t shy away from my story. That old life just about broke me . . . this is my testimony…”. Expect a nod for these guys at the Dove Awards soon, judging from this song alone!
“Get Up Get Out” is Rhett’s in your face anthem that challenges society’s thinking; and is directed at adversity and at the devil. Rhett’s determination to spread the gospel regardless of the devil’s tricks against us is the basis and the theme in this battle type song with a no nonsense no compromise attitude. With a guitar riff reminding me musically of Carrie Underwood’s “Leave Love Alone”; Rhett declares ‘…the time is now, can’t shut me out, I’ve got something to say; we can’t stand by while this world just dies, so move with me today, or get up, get out of the way…’; and it’s clear that he means business! And rightly so, with Rhett’s yearnings further explained: “…What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong…we have all these other people in the world with non-Christian beliefs that aren’t scared to speak their minds. They don’t hide behind anything; neither should Christians…”What a way to end the first half- with a gung ho anthem; ready to conquer anything thrown at us!
The accolades for this Tennessee band keep on coming with the slower ballads “All I Need” and “Brother”. “All I Need” is a confession of unworthiness of sorts; prominently played on the piano. One of Rhett’s most vulnerable pieces; he admits and owns up on the failures and insecurities he has. Very relatable to today’s society, as we all have doubts; this humble and stirring song has given me food for thought; as assertions throughout Rhett’s prayer are startling and thought provoking: ‘…show me once again that You are real; oh this wounded heart, let it start to feel; it’s only love that would ever be enough, so here I am, my hands lifted up…on my knees I’ll be found, all I need is You…’. “Brother”, a reflective track full of sliding guitar solos; also breaks the mould of traditional CCM structure and topics; with Rhett and guest vocalist David Leonard giving the listener a view that we are all the same ‘…brother don’t you know, no one is too hard to find, and no one is strong enough to make their own way…we’re all just beggars and themes in need of the very same grace…’. Both songs are a real eye opening experience to me! Every human, regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status and political leaning; all require unconditional love and acceptance, and that can only come through Jesus Christ! I smell a 2nd and 3rd single for these two inspiring and magical tracks…don’t you?
“Can’t Break Me” sound a cross between a Newsboys and Skillet track, and builds upon “Get Up Get Out” thematically. Rhett’s passionate vocals are once again in full force; and I can’t help but smile and dance as Rhett repeatedly rebukes Satan ‘…you can come against me but you won’t get far, it’s plain to see just who you are, you had me once but now I’m free, so go on and hit the road, cause you can’t break me…’ Adversaries and Satan’s lies shouldn’t break us, as there is freedom in Christ’s death and resurrection. Amen to a refreshing and reinvigorating track that makes you want to shout and scream from the rooftops! And it helps with reverb, a heap of electronic effects, and an electric guitar solo worthy of being compared to Stu G!
The last two tracks are “Vessel” and “Singing Stone”. “Vessel” is a guitar focused typical country ballad from God’s perspective; and Rhett’s vocals shine once again in this song. While not one of the most strongest songs on the album, it is enjoyable though with the steady strum of the electric guitar, and Rhett’s earnest question ‘…can’t you see, you belong to me?…’. Jesus wants us all to be His; and when we are destroying ourselves, the vessel God intended us to be of His love, isn’t used in the way it should, and it becomes cracked ‘…and the fabric is torn, and the ship is staring down the barrel of the stronghold…’. When we recognize our place in this world and the fact that the God of the universe loves us and made us to be like Him; we start to live life differently! Finally, “Singing Stone” is an acoustic stripped down contemplative admission of fault and repentance type of song; with Rhett questioning, in a thankful way, God’s love for us- ‘…I’m a thousand miles away from Your throne, lost within this desert land alone…’ but then Rhett says that God gives life to the stones- he is that powerful! And to think He could want a relationship with us is incredible and sometimes unfathomable. Well done Rhett Walker Band for a compelling and heartfelt finisher to an album that has stretched me lyrically and musically.
“…There’s just nothing we can do without grace; we’re all dirty, messed up people, but Christ still loves us. So there’s two things we must do. One: rejoice, because now we have a purpose on this earth—to share that grace with others. Two: take up the calling. You can’t just take that love and not tell the story that goes with it…” Rhett Walker Band have released a debut beyond my expectations! This unique band has given some well needed spark and energy into a CCM industry that needs to reinvent itself in the 21st century! With similar musical and lyrical themes to Third Day, needtobreathe and MercyMe’s recent album The Hurt and the Healer; this album has turned my musical preferences on their head! This is one of the most memorable and enjoyable CCM debuts since Moriah Peters. Maybe I would buy more country albums in the future, thanks to the Rhett Walker Band. Don’t expect me to be running to buy Mac Powell’s solo country album though… one baby step at a time!
- Gonna Be Alright (3:34)
- Come To The River (3:28)
- Make Me New (3:03)
- When Mercy Found Me (3:58)
- Get Up Get Out (3:20)
- All I Need (3:46)
- Brother (w/ David Leonard) (4:36)
- Can’t Break Me (3:19)
- Vessel (3:52)
- Singing Stone (4:03)
Favourite Tracks: Gonna Be Alright, Make Me New, When Mercy Found Me, All I Need, Brother