Cages. We’re well pedigreed engineers of them. We construct them, we think, for comfort. We believe they will save us, either by protecting us from the cruel blows of the world or by protecting the world from us. They keep the world in check, or they keep us in check. Either way, they are wrought-ironed evidence of humanity’s slavery to self-salvation, self-justification. Riffing on Calvin: the human heart is a cage factory, skillfully engineering ten thousand self-made prisons.
Come and Make Us Free is our latest five-track EP exploring our cage-making obsession, entertaining every theme that sits between its diagnosis and deliverance. To get right to the point, the album is about the slavery of sin and the freedom of the gospel. It plays like a mini worship service:
Invocation: “Come Witness this Gospel to Me”
Confession of Sin: “Come and Make Us Free”
Confession of a Savior: “Christ Surrendered All”
Assurance of Salvation: “It is Finished”
Summary & Praise: “Gospel Doxology”
A New Path in Songwriting
Those who have followed my recording journey over the last five years will note (no surprise) that I love hymns. I’ve spent the bulk of my energies recasting those old gems in new settings. Come and Make Us Free is my first album where all the texts are original (except for the third verse of the doxology). As I said to a friend recently, “It feels like I’ve been now bathing in hymns long enough that I can begin stepping out of the water with the confidence that I’ll honor the heritage.”
Therefore, you’ll hear some songs that are very hymn-like. They’ve got older, poetic language and odd words like “Remembrancer” (thanks, Charles Wesley, for that theologically loaded descriptor of the Holy Spirit). Other songs, though, are a move toward deeper enculturation—pop melodies and more immediately accessible lyrics (“It is Finished”). In any regard, a heavier hand at lyric-writing is probably a sign of where I am headed, though I will never quite be able to let go of hymns (or, probably more accurately, they won’t let go of me).
Probably the principal reason I’m able to step away from the lyrical safety net of hymnody is because I have a great songwriting partner in my co-leader at Coral Ridge, Julie Anne Vargas. She has given the album a lyrical and musical focus and tightness, which have made all our songs sharper. In the craft of putting a song together, she’s the better technician.
I Believe in Every Song
There’s no track on this one that I consider filler. Not every song will fit every context, but I think there’s something for everyone. We taught four out of the five songs to our LIBERATE 2015 attendees last week, and they were all picked up quickly and sung passionately. That gave me great confidence in their integrity.
I also think the production on this album is more consistent than previous albums of mine, largely because of the help of one of South Florida’s best musicians, Matt Calderin, whose own show-stopping bluesy funky rock everyone should check out.
The first track, “Come Witness This Gospel to Me,” is a classically influenced poem that gets at the heart of what I think true “charismatic” worship really is. The middle three tracks are pop-rock worship songs all built on drums, bass, and Rhodes. The final track, “Gospel Doxology,” is a short anthem weaving pipe organ and strings into a big rock ending. In the weeks to come, I will post song stories and descriptions that delve into the music and theology of each track.
For now, please enjoy the album, and tell your friends about it! Gift the album to people you know who are weary of the do-more-try-harder “Christianity” that leaves us all caged and exhausted. Point them to the finished work of Jesus!
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