Review: Achor by Josh White

Looking for something a little different than the normal ccm/pop/rock/modern worship to inspire you? We’ve put together a great panel review of Josh White’s Achor. Thanks to these great members of The Worship Community for sharing their thoughts and insights on this album.

Kim Castro (facebook.com/kim.castro)

Josh White’s worship album, Achor, is a beautifully crafted collection of worship and praise songs, and will be a welcome addition to almost anyone’s music library.  Josh, a pastor and worship leader at Solid Rock Church in Portland, Oregon, uses a wide variety of instruments on this offering, from acoustic guitar and woodwinds to piano.

I was excited for the opportunity to review this album.  I am typically immersed in the usual high quality fare of adult contemporary Christian music. As of late, however, I have wanted to branch out and listen to and analyze different genres-Christian artists who make their marks in folk, alternative, or atmospheric styles.

This album does not disappoint, to say the least.  In the opening riffs of He Who Feeds the Ravens, I am taken with the simple yet gorgeous effect of acoustic guitar and Josh’s voice, which is soulful and heartfelt.  I believe he is one of the best male vocalists in Christian music today.

I Love My God hearkens back to a traditional style, especially lyrically.  Almost hymn-like, this song is perfect for contemplating the goodness of God’s love, of loving Him because of Him and not because of ourselves.

The piano and guitar based Our God is Present is a congregationally friendly song that can be sung in a slow moment of worship.  This is not a song to be hurried.  It speaks of God being present “in sickness, in health…everywhere”. It is somewhat repetitive and easy to sing, and would fit nicely in traditional or contemporary services.

He is Able is a mellow, sweet praise song and an encouraging testament to God’s power.  I like the contrast between the theme and the tone of the song.  The vocals are smooth and the harmonies are very effective.  The use of woodwinds adds much to the organic quality of the sound.

I love the opening strings on Awake.  I was pleasantly surprised when an a capella choir began the first verse.  I believe it was a great choice to use a choir on this song…it suggests a sense of fellowship, of bringing The Church together in praise of Him.

Overall, Achor, which is a reference to Hosea 2:15, succeeds on many levels.  Fans of an organic, unplugged sound will appreciate the use of acoustic instruments and unaffected voices.  Those who are looking for a worship and praise album that is just a bit out of the ordinary in genre but is extraordinary in musicianship and production should definitely give this a listen.

Kim is a worship leader and songwriter hailing from central California. Her heart is to obey the Great Commission and to serve others as God leads.

Dennis Arriaga (twitter: @dennarr // dennarr.com // facebook.com/dennarr)

Wow.  Achor, by Josh White, is a great album for your personal worship time that also includes a few tracks for congregational use and definitely many for the special music portion of a service.

In a market where “worship” albums are sometimes stereotypically defined by the large and live sounds of masses worshipping, in my opinion, Achor is just as powerful and rich.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the “large and live” sound; but as I listened to Achor I found myself being lead in worship just as much – often not singing at all, just meditating on and agreeing with the profound lyrics.  Sometimes we miss the benefits of silent and meditative worship.

This album was pretty much the only thing I listened to for a couple of days and several tracks jumped out.  In fact, I could see myself creating a “personal worship” playlist* from the album, finding a quiet place, putting on the headphones, and listening to these tracks (moving between kneeling, standing…bowing in prayer, and raising my hands):

•    He Who Feeds The Ravens – Wonderful lyrics and great instrumentation.  “He who feeds the ravens will give His children bread” are the foundational lyrics that drew me in.

•    I Love My God – At first, the lyrics “I love my God but with no love of mine – for I have none to give.  I love Thee Lord but all the love is Thine.  For by Thy life I live” caught me off guard.  How can I say or sing that I have no love to give God?  After several more listens, it hit me how too often we wrongly feel that we love and worship God on our own accord or with our own strength.  If we are truly honest, loving and worshipping Him is counter to our human and sinful nature.  These lyrics are so deep and convicting that this became one of my favorite tracks – also loved the instrument choices on this one.

•    You Amaze Me – Such a powerful “confessional” song.  In my opinion, God and His love, acceptance, grace, and mercy simply do not amaze us enough.  I loved the arrangement on this track.  The lyrics “I see Your wounds and I’m undone” and “You / Perfectly you covered me / With blood that flowed from your hands and feet / Consume me”  made this a “WOW” song for me.

•   Our God Is Present – “All those who seek the throne of grace find that throne in every place / If we live a life of prayer our God is present everywhere”  This is hands down my favorite track on the album.  I could see this being used in a worship service or more specifically a prayer meeting – right before the time of prayer time.  I would teach chorus – sing/teach verses.  I loved the repeated proclamations of “our God is present” – they build, focus, and remind.  If I had the music, I would use it this weekend as backing for part of our Communion time!

•    The Wall - “The wall has been torn down by Your blood / And as our lives collide with Your love, we pray tear down those walls that keep us from You”  Honest and personal worship – great reminder of the Gospel, which we all need to hear again and again.  The phrase “in sprit and truth” came to mind as I listened to this song.  I love how the song addresses the myth that the “walls” that prevent intimacy with God are from Him – He tore the veil when He died, the only walls left are created by us.  Love the “oooo, lalala’s” too!

Overall, I like the intimate sound and the variety of instruments used on the project.  For me, lyrics are a huge factor in choosing the music I listen to – Josh white solidly captured my ear and heart with his thoughtful lyrics.  Achor is a highly recommended addition to the worshipper’s – and worship leader’s – library.

Dennis works at an independent, nonprofit research institute and is the worship leader at East Valley Church in San Jose, CA.

Mat Reames (twitter: @matreames // matreames.wordpress.com // facebook.com/matreames)

Sometimes you are lucky enough to get a CD that really rocks you. There are hundreds of CD’s that sound nice and make for Good worship, but when you find one that you can’t let go of, you know you have something special. This is what happened when I got my copy of Josh White’s new worship album Achor. I was sitting in the lobby of a McDonald’s using the free Internet and just listening to it while I worked. By the third song I had to stop working because I was gripped. I listened to the CD for hours not realizing suddenly it was almost 7 pm. When I got home I put it on repeat and listened all night. The following morning, well you get the drift.

When you listen to it, you realize it is not a regular worship CD. It lacks the fine polishing of a Hillsong or Chris Tomlin album. This however is one of its primary attractors. This stripped down CD has a living room feel that makes you think you are right next to josh lying face down before the King of Heaven.

Its hard to pick ‘standout’ songs, so I just pick three interesting ones. The second song on the album, Holy Ghost Revival is great, it is what I think would happen if Derek Trucks and the Alman Brothers Band became Worship Leaders. A classic blues-rock jamband sound. It truly makes you think you are at an old-fashioned tent revival.

Next I want to highlight the song You Amaze Me there is a line in there that ruined me, it epitomized my heart towards God. “Where can I go to escape your Love, I see your Wounds and I’m Undone, It consumes me.” If I were emotional I might have wept openly in the McDonald’s. Just Brilliant.

The Third song I will highlight is The Wall I am just a sucker for songs about the Blood of Jesus. This song speaks of how the Blood of Jesus tore down the wall of separation between God and man. Its just wonderful.

Every song on this album deserves a paragraph of its own. Achor reminds me of how I felt the first time I saw John Mark McMillan long before anyone knew who he was, and simple worship brought me to my knees. If you have the money you need to get this album. This is not your typical congregational worship, but I can see much of the album being adapted especially in a younger congregation. Its a fresh move of worship for the church. This may not be the CD you sing in church every sunday, but it will be the CD you play in your quiet time every other day.

Mat is serving in an internship with a Church in Lawrence, KS and serves in the worship ministry.

Melanie Siewert (twitter: @melasie // worshipvanguard.blogspot.com // facebook.com/mesiewert)

I must admit I am a sucker for the raw folk/blues acoustic guitar sound, and I have a great appreciation for artists who use multiple “odd” instruments in their recordings.  Josh White has a great blend of various instruments normally not used in most modern Christian music, especially worship music.  Aside from the acoustic guitar, he seamlessly incorporates banjo, tambourine, violin, harmonica, flute, piano, djembe, and clarinet.

Each song has its own uniqueness.  None sound alike, and each uses a different secondary instrument such as banjo, flute or harmonica.  The songs that stuck out the most to me are Holy Ghost Revival, You Amaze Me, To Burn in You, Our God is Present, Let Me See Your Hands and Awake.

Holy Ghost Revival has that great raw delta blues style that I love.  The harmonies ring out beautifully.  You Amaze Me is a well lyrically crafted song.  It captures the psalms in a beautiful manner, and it captured my heart as well.  It’s evident the heart of Josh White flows through it.  To Burn in You came across as powerful to me.  It starts off soft as if it is a simple campfire song, and grows to a power bridge.  The voice blend is amazing (at least to me), and can easily adapt to a Sunday morning worship setting.

Our God is Present reminds me of the kind of music I sang with my college worship team, except with violins.  This song is also easily adaptable to Sunday morning worship meetings.  Let Me See Your Hands is a very neat “train” style.  By that, I mean it sounds like a train is moving down the track with the mix of banjo, djembe, and harmonica.  It has that raw “hobo” blues feel I gravitate to.  Awake is a great worship song.  I love how it starts off a-capella with a choir singing in unison as it builds to a strong chorus.

Josh White also has a keen sense of melody and lyrical content.  Every melody is catchy enough to stick in your head a while.  To those musically creative, he leaves enough room where many would think to themselves that they could add their own flair to the songs, and they would fit.  His lyrics capture the essence of scripture beautifully.  From singing about the psalms to the scars in Christ’s hands, Josh White expresses his heart for Christ’s work on the cross, and what it means to him.  He’s obviously a worship leader.

Overall, I am hooked.  Well done, Josh, well done

Melanie is a Christ follower, wife to a wonderful man of God, and mother of two incredible boys. She has several years experience mentoring high school worship bands, and desires to continually write music for the Lord’s church.

Tracy Simmons (twitter: @casualheretic // www.c3ak.com)

This offering from Josh White is titled Achor, the Hebrew word meaning “trouble”. The word’s use in the book of Hosea gives us some insight into the theme that runs through White’s lyrics and the tone of the album. God speaks through the prophet saying that He will make the valley of Achor, or trouble, a door of hope. With that thought in mind, every track on the album points toward the redemptive message of the Gospel and the rescue that awaits those who will seize it in times of trouble.

I really enjoyed every song in this offering. There were some divergent styles, which I didn’t mind at all. And I really liked the organic feel of the music, especially on cuts such as Awake where the backing voices sound like a church in simple praise. Awake is one of the tunes I found to be very catchy and singable. I could easily see it making its way into the rotation of Sunday set lists.

Our God is Present Everywhere is, for me, the most congregation friendly track on the volume in terms of bringing it to a communal setting. The hook is catching and with very little effort I found myself first humming along and then outright singing along. It also provides some nice harmony opportunities. This is another track that builds musically to the end in such a way that the majesty of the One who is being adored is effectively illustrated.

Let Me See Your Hands offers a funky, bluesy sort of a Louisiana Bayou vibe that might be tough to pull off for many worship bands. But I could definitely see people getting lost in the passion of this tune. The lyrics are both beautiful and arresting with lines such as “Jesus, let me see Your hands. I wanna see the holes where You felt Your Father’s plan…” and contrasts between words such as “suffering” and “sweet”.

The track Be Still is reflective and might be great for a personal worship time. In my own mind I could see this as a feature song before a communion service or as part of a meditative prayer time. It would also lend itself well to a creative video backing track that calls the community to contemplation of the themes the lyrics explore.

Without question my favorite cut from the album and the first track I heard when I hit shuffle on the playlist is To Burn In You. The first line is nothing short of brilliant poetry of the kind that makes me both love it and grind my teeth. “Oh, Lord I am like the moon without the Son I hang in darkness too…” I love it because it just communicates such a huge cry of the heart in a wonderfully simple phrase. I grind my teeth because I’ve never turned a phrase quite that well. This song just gets right down to the core of me and I can easily see integrating it into the worship experience of my own church. The melody is accessible and the lyrics are simply solid and filled with layers of meaning. The building passion to the close of the song conveys just the right message of a fire that started as a small ember but eventually comes to consume the worshiper.

I can readily see a number of the songs from this album becoming a part of the catalog I would use with my congregation. The accessibility of the lyrics is attractive to me as a worship pastor and the melodies are catching and solid. I’ll have these tunes on my regular playlist rotation for a while and I hope you’ll give the music a listen when you get the chance.

Tracy is the lead pastor and worship pastor at Christ Community Church in Anchorage, Alaska

See other TWC reviews and feel free to add your own thoughts and insights in the comments section!