Sunday, June 23, 2013

Music Review: Come to the Well by Casting Crowns

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Many of the songs are lyrically powerful.
Cons: I don't connect to a few of the songs.
The Bottom Line:
Encourage, challenge
Like only Casting Crowns can
'Nother good release

Casting Crowns Returns to the Well of Challenge and Encouragement 

Casting Crowns has always had a mix of original worship songs and songs aimed to challenge and encourage Christians on their releases.  Their last release was just worship songs, and it left me unimpressed.  They are back to that mix with Come To The Well, and it mostly works.

They had the pleasure of recording the title track for the recent Christian movie Courageous, and it opens the disc here.  It's a call to stand up for what we believe in unapologetically and lead those around us.  It's a nice upbeat opener that sounds like classic Casting Crowns.

When Casting Crowns is on target, they have songs that catch me from the first listen and continue to speak to me much later.  There are three of those here.  My favorite is "Already There," a song that gives us perspective on the trials of life and reminds us to trust God.  Yes, trusting God, one theme I always seem to love.  But the lyrics here are some of the best I've heard on the subject.  "When I'm lost in the mystery/To You my future is a memory/'Cause You're already there."  Musically, it's a typical Casting Crowns up tempo track with driving drums and piano.

The rockiest I think I've ever heard them get is "My Own Worst Enemy."  Electric guitar forms the base for this fast paced song about the struggle to live for God when our sin nature is so powerful.

Then there's the extended analogy of "City on the Hill."  The song is a quieter ballad about a community that falls apart because people stopped respecting and listening to their differences and instead turned on each other.  The strings on this one are especially beautiful.

Speaking of analogies, there's "Spirit Wind," which applies the story from Ezekiel of a valley of dry bones to a spiritually dead church.  It sounds to me like there are some banjos in this number.  It's a fun song musically, but it will also challenge you.

Another song of challenge is "Jesus, Friend of Sinners."  The message of the song is that Christian are often so fast to condemn sin that we turn people away from Jesus.  It even calls to find the title that the religious leaders of His day gave him, friend of sinners.  I'm still not sure what I think of this one because they have a good point - if we are quick to call out sin and we are harsh about it, that will indeed just turn people off from what we are trying to say.  However, Jesus never backed down from calling sin what it is.  There's a very tricky balance between the two extremes, and this one seems to call for ignoring the sin we see around us, which is exactly the opposite problem.  As I said, I'm still struggling through the lyrics and what I think of this song.  Frankly, I think that's a good thing.

But there are three songs on here I'm not crazy about.  I am sure others will love these songs.  "Just Another Birthday" is written from the perspective of a woman whose father abandoned her and spent much of her life looking for someone to fill that void.  Mark Hall steps back from lead singer duties on this one, letting one of the women in the group take over.  It's a nice song, and I'm sure it will minister to many people out there.  It's just that I'm not in the target audience and it does nothing for me.  Again, not a problem with the song, just a problem of me not connecting to it.  I really do see this becoming an anthem for many women.

Next up is "Wedding Day."  It is built around the analogy of the second coming of Jesus as the bridegroom coming for His bride.  It's a good song, but again it does nothing for me.

Finally, there's the love song "Angel."  It's a cute song about young love as experienced by Mark Hall.  It feels a little out of place on a Casting Crowns CD.  While I don't mind it that much, I tire of it quickly.

There is more good than bad in this disc.  While not my favorite Casting Crowns CD, it does feature several good challenges and reminders that make me think.  For that reason, Come To The Well is worth getting.

CD Length: 53:13
1. Courageous
2. City on the Hill
3. Jesus, Friend of Sinners
4. Already There
5. The Well
6. Spirit Wind
7. Just Another Birthday
8. Wedding Day
9. Angel
10. My Own Worst Enemy
11. Face Down
12. So Far to Find You

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