Saturday, June 29, 2013

Music Review: Hope of the Broken World by Selah

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Many songs of encouragement with a fun, diverse style
Cons: A couple songs I don't connect with, but they're growing on me
The Bottom Line
Pause, reflect, and rest
All found in Selah's latest
Which is a great disc

Music for a Parched Soul

For some reason, I decided years ago I wasn’t interested in the music of Selah.  All that changed at Christmas  of 2011 when I wound up getting this Christmas CD and I fell in love with it at first listen.  That led me to get Hope Of The Broken World, their 2011 release.  I can’t get enough of it.

Selah takes their name from a word in the Psalms that we think means pause and rest.  At least that’s how most Bible scholars think it should be interpreted.  And that’s exactly what I find when I listen to this disc.  It reminds me of truths I know but in ways that seem fresh.  And their almost constant change of musical styles keeps things interesting.  Plus Allan Hall, Amy Perry, and Todd Smith have such outstanding harmonies together it’s so lovely to listen to.

Selah is a trio with roots in the bluegrass country style.  You can definitely see that as times, like on the first track, “On the Mountain.”  But it’s most pronounced in their cover of Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” and the original song “He’ll Hold You.”  Then there’s their fun bluesy “ShelterMe.”  But there are slower, quieter ballads like the title track and “When Love was Slain.”

Selah is famous for creating new takes on classic hymns that make you focus on them in new ways.  There’s only one hymn here, and it’s great.  Todd grew up as a missionary kid inAfrica, and they occasionally use that in their arrangements.  They’ve incorporated it here, and parts of the song are sung in an African tribal language.  The song has an overall African chant feel with an emphasis on the percussion even from the other instruments they are playing.  It’s different, and I love it.

Another highlight is member Amy Perry’s take on “I Look to You,” a song made famous by Whitney Houston.  Here, it’s a quiet piano ballad that really allows you to meditate on the words.  Amy’s voice is strong although the song never overpowers.

For my money, I actually prefer the similarly themed “I Turn to You.”  A duet featuring Amy and Todd, the song soars and their voices blend perfectly.  But I think the ultimate reason I love it is because of the longing in their voices for God’s presence.

The disc ends with “When Love was Slain,” a quiet piano based ballad about Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Yes, I do enjoy the more upbeat moments, too.  “On the Mountain,” a song about how long the journey toward being like Christ really is, has a toe tapping mid-tempo beat.  And I’ve got to give another mention to “ShelterMe.”  This take on Psalm 91 is so much fun.  If you aren’t grooving to the music, there’s something seriously wrong with you.

Not all the songs are hits for me.  While I like the message about counting your blessings, I’m not a huge fan of “Coat of Many Colors.”  “Moments Like These,” an ode to fathers and daughters from the dad’s point of view, doesn’t completely connect with this single guy.  Even so, both songs are growing on me; I might grow to love them yet.

I’m going to have to go back and explore more of Selah’s previous work.  I’ll get right on that as soon as I stop listening to Hope Of The Broken World, which I don’t see happening any time soon.

CD Length: 49:31
1. On the Mountain
2. Hope of the Broken World
3. Shelter Me
4. Coat of Many Colors
5. He’ll Hold You
6. Be Still
7. Moments Like These
8. I Turn to You
9. ‘Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus
10. Threshold of Glory
11. I Look to You
12. When Love was Slain

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