Burlap To Cashmere
Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith
Ashley Cleveland and Michael Tait
Jars of Clay
Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Charlie Peacock
Bill Mallonee and Vigilantes of Love
Over the Rhine
Ginny Owens and Brent Bourgeois
Sixpence None the Richer
ROARING LAMBS (2000)
We've seen it happen over and over again. In an attempt to heighten excitement about a new album, the record company will advertise it relentlessly for months only to raise expectations too high and prove once more that hype can be deadly to a CD. The exception: Roaring Lambs. Despite more than six months of advertisement, this Squint release lives up to expectations in more ways than one. The line up is phenomenal. It includes artists who are well-known and respected in the Christian community, but more importantly, who have leapt outside of Christian boundaries, landed in the middle of a culture of hungry lions, and roared back: Jars of Clay and Sixpence None The Richer (both of whom have experienced groundbreaking mainstream success), worship leaders extrordinaire Delirious?, Ginny Owens (who performed next to stars like Sarah McLachlan and Sheryl Crow on the Lillith Faire Tour), the much anticipated duo of Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith, and many more, all led by Christian music's big man, Steve Taylor. And its message is even bigger. Based on the philosophies detailed by the late Bob Briner in his book of the same title, Roaring Lambs calls us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world by invading all areas of our culture with the Holy Truth. It's a calling that countless Christians have made their personal mission.
The confident sound of Jars of Clay opens the CD. Their track, "Headstrong," is a skillfully produced balance of smooth guitars, rich harmonies, and chunky percussion. It is very similar in style to the songs on their If I Left The Zoo album, as it was originally supposed to "leave the zoo" as well. Ashley Cleveland and dc Talk's Michael Tait might not be an obvious combination, but they deliver a stellar performance, nonetheless. "Salt and Light" is a fun rock song that stands apart as one of the best cuts on the album. Next, two CCM veterans, Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith, team up for "Out There." Although there is a dynamic chemistry between their voices, the song itself is a little on the dull side. Brent Bourgeois and Ginny Owens serve up something different with "One Thing." Bourgeois wrote the song, and its style is unlike that of anything Ginny Owens has done in the past. In fact, I didn't even recognize her voice the first time I heard the song. Still, Bourgeois' writing is beautifully poetic, despite its repetitiveness. The next few tracks are what truly bring the compilation to life. Steve Taylor's "Shortstop" asks "Who will rise up?," using layers of jazzy piano, quippy lyrics, and an infectious beat. The previously retired PFR reunited to record track #6, "Kingdom Come." Calling Christians to "live loud enough to be heard," its lyrics sum up Bob Briner's philosophy better than any other song on the album. Charlie Peacock and Ladysmith Black Mambazo sing of God's never failing power in the African-style, a cappella "'Akehlulek' Ubaba." The direction of the album moves toward progressive praise with Delirious?' "Touch," another impressive addition to the group's gracefully evolving worship style. Burlap to Cashmere follows. As the title of their song suggests, "Daisies and Roses," is a vision of gentleness and encouragement, set off by rolling guitars and ear-catching lyrics. Over The Rhine contributes "Goodbye," a beautiful song that ponders coming to terms with oneself, while Bill Mallonee and Vigilantes of Love proffer "Wondering Where the Lions Are" with a harsh sound that may appeal to some rock fanatics. Legendary for stepping up as roaring lambs in the secular rock genre, Sixpence None The Richer tops off the compilation with "The Ground You Shook." This jewel, written by Matt Slocum, captures a tiny piece of the wonder of God and wraps it up in a pounding melodic number. A beautiful sound, indeed.
Roaring Lambs holds nothing back. Its cutting edge music and upfront lyrics speak volumes about Christianity. The album certainly has what it takes to make an impact outside the Christian comfort zone, but will its message reach the rest of the world? Time will tell. Until then we can take comfort in the fact that as Christians we are beginning to understand our calling to be silent no more. The Lambs are roaring beautiful sounds.