Review: Real Life [Lincoln Brewster]
Opening up in typical upbeat, energetic pop-rock fashion, Lincoln Brewster’s seventh solo recording Real Life features contributions from award-winning writers Paul Baloche, Jason Ingram and Mia Fieldes. From the first song, Best Days, to the closer Shout for Joy, there’s a certain familiar quality about this album that doesn’t disappoint. In some cases, we want the artist to push the envelope into new and unfamiliar territories, but in other cases we want our Lincoln Brewsters to be just that…Lincoln Brewster.
The guitar work is unmistakable. The tight vocal harmonies, which have an almost pop country feel to them on Best Days, stack up nicely. The trademark “whoa ohs” are just familiar enough to keep us grounded but not enough to be just normal.
Reaching For You has a catchy pop-rock feel to it that would work well in youth/college worship services and might even adapt well to some more upbeat energetic congregations.
Slowing it down and bringing the piano to the forefront a bit more, More Than Amazing, is the first ballad from Real Life and it doesn’t disappoint. This kind of has an Above All meets More Than Enough vibe. It’s a great song. As the song builds, Lincoln layers in some tasty soulful guitar licks. I believe the simple and singable chorus and bridge will catch on quickly in worship services and be easy to implement as a regular for worship teams and choirs everywhere.
The title cut, Real Life, keeps it down tempo a bit and opens up with more of an 80s acoustic rock driven sound. Reminded me a bit of some of the rock ballads from when I was a kid. It has a little bit of that pop-country sound as well. Not enough to make it actually sound like a country song, but the production seems to lean a little bit in that direction. Not sure that this would fit in a worship set. Might be able to use it more in a thematic setting.
So Good picks up the tempo a bit and Lincoln displays the dexterity of his shredding fingers a bit. I’ve always found it fascinating how such intricate and fast guitar work (which I would categorize as shredding) is layered over a more pop, modern worship sound, as opposed to a face-melting heavy rock sound. Lincoln does it well, though. This has almost a Darrell Evans meets Paul Baloche sound to me. Of course, with Lincoln’s guitar work, it’s really his own as well. This would be a good opener for an upbeat worship set.
I Belong To You brings a more driving rock sound to the album. Reminiscent of Hillsong United or some of the more modern upbeat stuff. I think this would work great for youth/college settings and those churches who incorporate really fast and energetic music into their sets. If done correctly, I think it might even get people moving a little! Fans of electric guitar will love this one.
Slowing it back down a little, Whom Shall I Fear, featuring Kari Jobe, is a truth filled song based on God’s goodness. Kari’s sweet vocals add just enough without taking away from what Lincoln is doing. Fans of Kari might want to hear more of her voice, but I feel like using her as accents and harmonies on this one was brilliant. The texture of her voice and Lincoln’s lead vocal is just right. That being said, as the song ends, Kari’s voice takes over the lead as the song fades out. I think this one could be adapted easily for corporate worship gatherings.
Another slower song follows in Loved By You. A simple and singable chorus that is sung from the perspective of a “beloved” of Jesus. Not one of my favorites from the album, but fans of simple, repetitive sweet, choruses will enjoy singing this one. The guitar solo is pretty tasty (when are they not?).
The biographical song Made For You carries on the trend of singing from a “me” perspective. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, some of the most beloved Psalms are from the “me” perspective. Driven by an acoustic guitar and brushes on the drums groove, you can tell this song is an effort to be transparent. Some of the songs were specifically written for worship and others were reflections of Lincoln’s real life experiences and this song is one of those. “I’m really proud of this group of songs,” says Brewster. “It’s definitely the most transparent project I’ve ever done, combining elements of worship and real life experiences.”
The album closes with a more upbeat, energetic song called Shout For Joy. It’s a pulsing four on the floor groove that will definitely get your toes tapping. The chorus uses a more percussive toms groove and provides a nice contrast to the pulsing groove of the verses. You’ll also hear chimes and bells throughout the song that give it a nice anthemic, orchestral quality. There’s something about the tolling of bells that give any music a kind of call to action feel. The bridge uses a nice big choir “whoah” section that is very catchy. Even in this day and age of pop “whoahs” this is a very singable and catchy “whoah” that I think people will enjoy singing. In my opinion, this is one of the strongest corporate songs on the album, but will also require a strong band and vocal team to pull it off.
Like I said earlier, I don’t think Lincoln is breaking new ground with this album, but he does what we know and love best about him. My wife said she thought she was listening to Rascal Flats and I’ve heard others say this album reminded them of Keith Urban. Lincoln has catchy, singable choruses and shreds the guitar parts without muddling up the songs. The songs he presents that would be adaptable for corporate worship can be adapted easily.
Lincoln is not only a solid recording artist, but he’s also a great speaker and worship leader/mentor. And for me personally, whether I love, hate, or just tolerate their recordings, anyone who is raising up leaders and creating a culture of solid, Biblical worship gets two thumbs up from me.
I would personally incorporate several of these songs into my Sunday Setlists.