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TODD AGNEW
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GRACE LIKE RAIN (2003)
Grace Like Rain - Click to view!No, my friends, Creed did not release a worship album; Native American Todd Agnew did. One of the newest additions to the Ardent Records family, Todd Angew has taken influences like Creed, Dave Matthews Band, and Counting Crows to craft an album that reflects mainstream musical tastes of the day. This worship leader has a benefit in not only crafting new musical arrangements, but in moving beyond the playground of church walls. He has covered tunes by the above artists in various clubs before being signed by Ardent, taking evangelism to the streets. In order to be accepted by a club's audience, Todd Agnew has had to polish his guitar skills, and this has produced a worship leader who knows how to make good music.

Todd Agnew grew up in the pews of his parent's church, forcing him to rethink and revisit many praise and worship songs. He says, "I've been in church all my life, and it was just habit for me. I knew every word to every song, and there was no speaking of God in that, just rote practice. But when I started breaking down these songs, realizing the depth and value of their meaning, I realized that I would have to teach them again, making them more relevant." Listeners can sense this deconstruction in the title track, "Grace Like Rain." The verses originate from the traditional hymn, but Todd sets them against a pop-rock foundation and a fresh chorus: "Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me / Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away / They're washed away." Todd travels dangerous ground by altering the handed-down tune, but I believe he succeeds with reviving the words. Because the melody is new, everything must be studied with that newness, including the words.

But he doesn't reject the hymn style. "Come Ye Sinners" reads in the traditional four-line-per-verse form and contains some of the most beautiful lyrics in the collection: "I will arise and go to Jesus / He will embrace me in His arms / And in the arms of my dear Savior / Oh, there are ten thousand charms." "Only One Thing" takes the contemporary hymn "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" and reshapes it with new music and fresh words.

The song "You Are" surprises the audience with bluesy country guitars, but then it breaks back down into traditional contemporary Christian rock worship form. If there can be a complaint, it's the fact that Todd could have pushed the music envelope so much further: "Shepherd" sounds like an Among Thorns song; "Still Waiting" becomes the traditional piano ballad found in the middle of every modern worship CD. I do enjoy the Vegas-club feel of the Chris Tomlin classic "Kindness" and the blues/gospel rock of "Lay It Down." If Todd Agnew's desire is to reach the population never exposed to the worship genre, he should go even further on his next recording to snag their ears with tempting music. He should continue following the southern styles of "Kindness" and "Lay It Down" to bring Jesus to the clubs and bars down the street. They're refreshing songs to our CCM-saturated ears - a cool breeze of change.
- Hollie Stewart
October 2003
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