Take the World, But Give me JesusThere’s a resurgence of old hymns right now. The Mars Hill guys are pouring out lots of them through the Re:Sound label, and now Come&Live‘s band, Ascend the Hill, release their second album on the label called Take the World, But Give me Jesus. It might seem like a strange move, early in their career, to cover a bunch of ancient songs, but when considering the heart of this band it makes perfect sense. They aren’t interested in building their own kingdom, they just want to make Jesus famous and will draw from wells new and old to achieve that end.

Opening with “The Love of God“, it is clear from the outset that though not straying far from the sound that they created on their debut release, they have honed and perfected it, and though they open with the declaration, “The love of God is greater far/Than tongue or pen can ever tell,” these boys are going to give it their best shot to tell of that love. This is an album of dynamics, more so than their first album was. The first two numbers clip along, and then comes the stripped down and intimate “Rock of Ages” and the haunting titular track of the album. What is so astounding is how fresh these hymns sound. It isn’t outlandish what they have done with these treasures of church liturgy, but somehow they have contextualized these expressions of worship and truth, making sense of them in our current musical climes, yet retaining the original phraseology.

There are the expected crescendoes of layered guitars, and the flowing melodies that encapsulate Ascend the Hill‘s sound, but this time out there is something more. All I can describe it as is a growing sense of community.There are times on this recording when you become aware of a chorus of voices singing the same song, as though the church were captured in a snapshot of devotion and it cannot but draw the listener into that space. It is not presented this way throughout the album, and whether it was a conscious production choice I don’t know, but the effect is a regular reminder that worship is something the church does together to the praise of our God and King. Worship is not a spectator sport, nor is it entertainment. It is our sacred calling. To see what I mean check out “Rock of Ages“, “Hallelujah! What a Savior” and album closer “Be Thou My Vision”.

Sonically, the album is beautiful and rich – instruments are full sounding and organic, vocals are clear and powerful, and the mixing provides an enveloping experience. As part of Come&Live!, Ascend the Hill are doing things differently from the majority of the industry – they’re giving their music away as a gift, no strings, no guilt, just a blessing. I highly recommend you go and receive this blessing!