AHHHH, REFRESHING, NEEDED, BREAKING THE COOKIE CUTTER MOLD OF “WORSHIP.” All are words/phrases I would use to describe the eight-song debut from Erik Michael. Born in Romania, Erik “grew up on a sheep farm in upstate New York.” Not quite typical, right? Yeah, I had to know more.
Erik leads worship at his local church but has been around long enough in the worship community to call Matt Maher and Paul Baloche friends, as well as having shared the stage with the likes of Casting Crowns, at conferences, churches, and festivals all around the country; Erik is no novice. Produced by the Brothers McClurg, Join the Song is one of the most encouraging and innovative worship albums to come out in years.
Right out of the gate the title track “Join the Song,” sets the stage for this unique delve into worship. By far the most congregational song on the project, the song still holds true to Erik’s unique stylings. This is a song I can hear being sung in many churches and more importantly, a song I both need and want to sing.
If there is a “typical” contemporary worship song on the album, “Let Your Will Be Done” would be it – a very solid, melodic prayer arranged so most worship teams would be comfortable playing it. I love the repetitive line “Finish What You Started In Us!”
In the vein of Iron Bell Music and United Pursuit, “Light from Heaven” is an ethereal, warm, anthemic, but not over arranged cry out to God for His light from Heaven to fill us up.
“Healer” made me say “Wow!” Not since Bryan McCleery’s “Come Away” is there a song I identify with so much. Again tapping into that Iron Bell/United Pursuit vein, this is without question my favorite song on this project. Through its lyrics, you know that Erik has not been sheltered from life’s trials and it is almost as if he connects with the listening in our own walk with Jesus. This song needs to be used! A LOT!
“Come to Me” is a well written, strong and congregationally friendly song. “Let my weary heart begin to cry out” stands out to me as a challenge as the worshipper.
Just grazing the vein of Mumford and Sons, “I Have a Hope” is a genuinely FUN yet very well written anthemic declaration that “I have a hope, that’s only found in Christ.” The banjo is beyond refreshing, and the production is just…just…right. It would be very easy to overproduce this, but it ebbs and flows in just the right ways and in just the right places. This is another song I believe many churches will add to their rotations.
When it first began, I thought my playlist had shuffled and stumbled onto my Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Chris Stapleton playlist. Add a splash of Robert Randolph’s genius instrumentalism and you find yourself immersed in “Road to Kingdom Come,” a song about witnesses to Jesus’s death and resurrection. Concept, lyrical content, melody, arrangement, and production all are a… 5 out of 5. I can’t begin to say how encouraged I was to hear this. Insert Super cool Emoji’s here!!!! And it’s Worship! How???? (More about this in a sec….)
Being from Kentucky, I was pleasantly pleased to hear the Album finish with a Bluegrass-leaning, acoustic prayer, “Just Want You,” that could just as easily be sung at a campfire as it could be heard fully arranged in a congregation. This song is simply profound, and profoundly simple. I love it.
Five years ago, I would have said that a worship album needs to be seamless and have a common thread interwoven throughout stylistically and thematically, as well in arrangement and production. Gladly, Join the Song just crushed that mentality. I see that Worship is a reflection of our individual walks with Christ and is expressed just as we would with any friend, through our personalities. There are many facets of our personalities, and those are unique to us. Each of these songs ARE “worship songs,” Erik has penned that are each as unique as the story behind them. Do all the songs flow seamlessly throughout the project? Thankfully, they do not. They do make up one of the most profound worship albums that I will carry along in my personal walk with the Lord.
So how can the artist/project grow? Erik, I’ll simply say keep walking with Jesus and writing what He puts on your heart, just as He has. What He has entrusted to you has blessed me for one.
Chip Conner is a Ragamuffin, Song Receiver, & the CEO of A Thousand Hills Music, LLC.