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Where Angels Fear to Tread - Click to view!Judging from a recent article, Matt Redman may be eavesdropping on ORU students. On ChristianityToday.com, the songwriter behind "Better is One Day" and "Let My Words Be Few" was quoted as saying, "I recently heard someone talking about the current 'worship trend.'"

One has only to listen in before chapel to hear a guy or girl contrasting Dennis Jernigan with David Crowder or other new worship acts. With hundreds of new praise albums releasing every year, such artists have been targets for criticism. "They make too many praise CDs," a cynic always pipes in during such a conversation. "Aren't their wallets padded enough?"

As if in response Redman continues, "To be honest, I find that quite funny. If it's a trend, then it's the only eternal trend there is! Worship is here to stay - throughout all time and eternity."

Where Angels Fear to Tread, his fourth U.S. release, strays from what the majority of worship artists are creating. Many worship songwriters feel that reinvention (i.e., looking to God through a different thematic "lens" each album) is the best approach when their influence extends to thousands upon thousands. Their quest for freshness can only be admired.

Redman, however, has gotten stuck on some simple concepts: reverence, sacrifice, and intimacy. All 12 new songs dwell completely within those ideas, based on scriptures he lists in the CD's liner notes. Leviticus, Ephesians, Habakkuk, Hebrews… very complex, unconventional books to use as praise choruses. And I cannot get enough of it.

The song "Amazing" sets the tone with a strong backbeat, jangly guitars, and undeniably British vocal rising to a furor.

The second track's theme mirrors the message John Bevere gave at Word Explosion this year. "When you get unfairly treated, God is setting you up to be blessed," were his words; Redman and his wife, Beth, lift up the phrase, "Blessed Be Your Name," whether "in the land that is plentiful" or "on the road marked with suffering." For the song's bold climax, a casual percussion rhythm spars with a gospel choir belting out the tag line "You give and take away."

This wisdom didn't come by accident. Redman, highly in demand at worship gatherings worldwide, took four months off his schedule to reconnect with his family, be still and know Jesus as God. A few days were designated for songwriting, which he said, "is almost like a part of my devotions. Every song involves a Bible study and a time of pouring out my heart to God."

Decibel level varies enough from song to song so that both pop/rock and classical music aficionados will find their tastes stretched. The two producers, both formerly in a little band called SONICFLOOd, mix in layers of samples, keyboards, and the like throughout the record. Nevertheless, subtle acoustic guitar propels the bulk of Where Angels Fear to Tread, most affectively on the title cut, a Kendall Payne duet called "Befriended," and on "Wonderful Maker," which adores God with the line "How majestic Your whispers." Co-written by Chris Tomlin, the latter precedes another album highlight, "Lord, Let Your Glory Fall." A splendid, syncopated melody gives Redman a dramatic backdrop for his Bible-based ad-libbing, "Your anger lasts a moment/But Your favor lasts a lifetime."

My passion for Matt Redman doesn't stem from being "comfortable" with his style (though there's no steep learning curve to his music) or the things he espouses. I simply need challenging reminders to remember, watch and echo God, set to a beat that isn't centuries old. Perhaps listeners think this is an invalid goal for music, because commercial success has avoided the British worship leader since he began over a decade ago.

Now I find that terribly unjust, but Redman? He tells only of Jesus his Savior, singing, "Forever in my heart, and written on my soul / The promise of Your cross: I have no other claim."
- Josh M. Shepherd
Reprinted from The Oracle, the student paper of Oral Roberts University, with permission of the author.

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