Saturday, June 1, 2013

Music Review: The Story of Your Life by Matthew West

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Uplifting songs that deal with the realities of life
Cons: Absolutely None
The Bottom Line:
This is a great disc
Can't say is strongly enough
You need to get it

Musical Encouragement to Face the Story of Your Life

Earlier this year, Matthew West decided to spend some time in a cabin writing songs.  But before he left, he asked his fans to send him stories from their lives to help inspire his writing.  The result of this unique collaboration is The Story of Your Life.

I'll admit, when I first heard about the disc, I was pretty skeptical.  Event discs like this can be bad as often as they are good.  But I had nothing to worry about.  This is Matthew's strongest release to date by a large margin.

One reason I like the disc is that it is constantly filled with the hope of God's love.  Okay, so it isn't cheesy or forced.  Sometimes it's very subtle.  But it is part of every song on the disc.  Take the title track for example.  "The Story of Your Life" starts out the disc with a mid-tempo anthem that reminds us to leave the past behind and take today as a new beginning.  The song never once mentions God; in fact, the only line that comes close is a reminder in the second verse that "love is up to something."  I could see this song and several others being cross over hits if the right stations pick them up.

While most of the songs are encouraging, "My Own Little World" is a song of conviction.  In fact, it's the only song Matthew wrote inspired by his experiences reading the e-mails he got.  It's a challenge to remember the least of these we pass everyday and open up our world to those who hurt.

Three songs of encouragement are my favorites on the disc.  The first of those is "Strong Enough."  The song starts with the lines "You must think I'm strong/to give me what I'm going through."  The song caught me from the opening line.  Yes, it's a song from the point of view of someone struggling with a heavy trial as they surrender and ask God to help them through it.  I've been there several times, and this song perfectly captures the feelings.  Yet the music is upbeat and seems to be more encouraging than you'd expect from a song of surrender.

Speaking of upbeat songs, "To Me" is a fun, guitar picked ditty that offers encouragement from parent to child (or Heavenly Father to us).  The focus is on a child being bullied and serves as a reminder that there is something special in every child.  With all the news about bullying right now, this song would be an instant hit.  And it's got a very catchy melody.  You'll find yourself humming along before you know it.

Rounding out my trio of favorites is actually a slow song.  "The Reason for the World" takes a look at the pain death brings into our lives.  It doesn't try to force answers on us, but ultimately just points us to Heaven and God's love.  The piano and strings are beautiful and the words are a good reminder of our hope in God without being so filled with cliches that it turns off those hurting.

Some of the other songs touch on letting go of harmful family legacies, the hope of adoption, and the pain a child goes through in a divorce.

The most interesting song musically is "Broken Girl."  The song is aimed at those who have suffered from sexual abuse, and Matthew does a great job of poetically making it obvious what he's talking about.  But it's the music I love.  This is the only song that isn't a pop song but is a driving rock ballad in a minor key.  It's loud with electric guitar and driving drums.  It's a great song.

The final song on the disc is "The Healing Has Begun."  While it is aimed at those recovering from having an abortion, it really does work as a finale for the entire disc.  It's a nice piano anthem that reminds us that God forgives anything and is willing to help us move forward with our lives.

It's fairly obvious what most of these songs are about, but the booklet that comes with the CD does talk about the stories that inspired Matthew to write the songs.  He is currently sharing even more on his web site, but I like the permanence of the book to have in the future.

It's impossible to get through this disc without feeling encouraged and uplifted.  Yes, some of the songs do move me to tears, but they never leave me this way.  The Story of Your Life is going to be a huge hit for Matthew West, and all the praise he gets will be well deserved.

CD Length: 45:06
1. The Story of Your Life
2. My Own Little World
3. Strong Enough
4. Family Tree
5. To Me
6. One Less
7. Two Houses
8. Survivors
9. Broken Girl
10. The Reason for the World
11. The Healing Has Begun

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