The Western church has been extremely blessed with a strong contemporary worship community for the last two decades. We have been well provided for with bands in the vein of Delirious, Hillsong, Gateway Worship and writers such as Tim Hughes, Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin. Parallel to this has been modern hymn writing from people such as Stuart Townend, Keith Getty and company. But between those two camps there has been sparser pickings of both creative and corporately suited worship. (I’d say Enter The Worship Circle, Aaron Strumpel, John Mark McMillan, DC*B and Gungor are some of the ones operating in the wide-open creative center/fringe).
Josh White, who has been leading worship for over a decade and recently planted a church in Portland, has just released “Achor” and it sits somewhere between Enter The Worship Circle, Sufjan Stevens and the Lost Dogs – in other words, it reeks of rootsy, bluesy, folksy music that is so rooted in Americana that it is one of the most honest worship records you’ll hear all year. It sounds like this album just grew out of the ground, as acoustic guitars, layered vocals, flutes, double basses, dobros, clarinets, strings and more chorus their way through 12 tracks.
The album title means “trouble” and is a reference from Hosea 2:15 – “the valley of Achor as a Door of Hope.” There is honest reflection that considers the weight and struggle of both existence and the comprehension of God’s grace.
“I can’t seem to calculate/All the patience it must take/To love me./ You perfectly covered me/ With blood that flowed from your hands and feet/ Consume me/ You are my center you’re my song/ You have been there all along/ I’ve been swallowed up by you/ There is nothing I can do/ Yes you amaze me,” sings White on “You Amaze Me”. It is not easy to sing so honestly about our lack of standing or deserving, but it is essential to the testimony of the church.
On the other end of the spectrum is the loose and wild “Holy Ghost Revival” which calls in revival for today or the slow but grand build of “Our God is Present” which envelops the listener in sound and the majesty of God. We need to be singing these songs and receiving such a gift of songwriting for today that really connects at a cultural level with a section of the church that has utilized the contemporary worship scene but has not necessarily considered it to be their own voice in the topography of worship.
There is a lot of material on here to work with for corporate worship settings, and the decade of leading people in worship really shows in White’s songwriting and recording. There’s a space to the sound and a feeling of community worship that pervades the album.
Yes, I’m musical-crushing again – it’s been quite the year for it, and I think you’ll fall in love too.
This review was originally written for Foursquare and the album was provided for reviewing by BEC Recordings at not charge to me, or Foursquare, and no attempt was made to secure a favorable review. All views expressed are my own.