Review: The Loft Sessions by Bethel Music

Thanks to Kim Castro and Mat Reames for sharing their thoughts and insights on Bethel Music’s newest release, The Loft Sessions, which releases today.

Kim

Brian and Jenn Johnson, Jeremy Riddle, and other artists met to create an experimental and authentic worship experience made evident in this latest project, The Loft Sessions. At once moving and original, this work displays the talent and emotion of those wishing to praise the Almighty through music. Worship sessions were recorded in a refurbished loft, and this passionate, driving work shines with creativity. [Read more...]

Review: Hope’s Anthem by William Matthews

Thanks to Mat Reames & Justin Hitchborn for sharing reviews of Hope’s Anthem by William Matthews with The Worship Community.

You can order William’s newest project, Hope’s Anthem, from the Bethel Store.

Mat Reames [matreames.wordpress.com | @matreames | facebook.com/matreames]

William Matthews is one of the worship leaders on staff over at Bethel Church in Redding, California. He shares worship duties with the likes of Brian & Jenn Johnson, Kim Walker-Smith, Jeremy Riddle, and Chris Quilala. To say that he is in good company would be an understatement.

Often times when you are in the middle of a group of respected leaders who have multiple CD’s, the temptation to shrink back can set in. This is not the case for Matthews. Instead of fading into the background, he came to the table with songs that really inspire. In 42 minutes William Matthews’ Hope’s Anthem covers the musical spectrum.

Right off the bat Matthews comes swinging with Deep Cries Out. This song was featured on the latest Bethel Live album Be Lifted High. Therefore I will forgo the full review of the song since it has been out and reviewed by many others before.

In This One Thing William shines with a steady drum beat and simple piano chording. The song serves as a declaration that as psalm 27:4 reminds us, “One thing I desire…” This song calls for the presence of God and his Glory to be manifested, and declares that Where he is, is where we want to be.

Track 3, We Believe , gets the tempo back up with a steady rock ballad feel. The song is about Believing in the word and promises of God to Save, Heal, and Deliver. To trust that when he said our nation would be healed, he meant it. This is a powerful song of declaration, and is perfect for encouragement and the edification of our fellow believers who often forget to believe.

Hope’s Anthem is the title track and should be familiar to Bethel Worship fans as it was featured on Bethel’s last live album Be Lifted High. The song is great, but since it is not a new song, I will not give you a full rundown.

So Good To Me is a song written while William was a background vocalist with Cory Asbury over at IHOP-KC. This song will be familiar to many, but Matthews manages to make it fresh and new giving it an urban gospel feel while still holding to the original grooves of the song. I actually much prefer this version as opposed to the original recording, and this is the song I was most looking forward to off of this album.

As you might expect The Lord is My Shepherd is based off of Psalm 23. I stand by my belief that this particular passage of scripture is the most used in worship, and probably has at least twice as many songs using it as any other scripture in the whole Bible. This is however a great version, it utilizes an acoustic guitar tapping and playing the style of slap guitar that was made famous through the movie August Rush. Lyrically it pretty well follows straight through the scripture passage with a few minor stylistic edits. This is going to be a tough one for many people to try and cover as the advanced nature of the acoustic technique will hinder a lot of people from trying.

I’m Free has the sound of a 1950’s tent revival, and there is no apology in it. With southern Gospel, Pentecost, and Country music all deep in the roots of this song, Matthews proclaims of his freedom which is most evident in the Chorus, “I’m Free to be, I’m free to be who I am, I’m free to love the One Who came and died for me.” I listened to this song on repeat for a hour and still didn’t tire of it. I do not believe it is possible for someone who listen to this, and not want to jump, dance, shout, and get their praise on.

Matthews tricked me with the track Bridge Over Troubled Water. The title is a classic gospel song, and so I was expecting a cover of the classic gospel hymn. However just when you think you know something you find out you know nothing. This is not a cover, but a completely original song with the same title. This is a great song that just has groove. I can’t quite put my finger on a proper description of that groove other than to say that this song has it.

Matthews keeps that groove while dialing down the tempo in My Great Reward. The chorus of this song is absolutely tremendous. “Jesus You are my great reward. You are the prize worth living for. So I’ll trade it all to love you more, My Great Reward.” This chorus just resonates deep with in my spirit. The bridge of the song is also fantastic and really has that R&B feel.

I Just want You more begins with soft pads and Matthews passionate vocals bringing the listener into this song, you almost forget that not even thirty seconds you were having a hoe down while some guy on a guitar is chicken pickin’. As the song finishes the first chorus a simple, stead piano line comes in that really adds to the worship tone of this, really pulling the listener into a deep worship. As the second chorus leads you into the bridge the drums and guitars begin to build you into an intense place of worship without losing the depth that you already were in. Lyrically this is a simple song as the main lyric of the song is “I want you more.” But in all honesty this lyric is truth and if it really is your hearts desire, then you do not need to be fancy, you just cry out for him.

This is a brilliant debut from William Matthews. He comes out swinging and proves at his young age he is able to worship with the best and can really help you get your praise on whilst still taking you into deep worship and the presence of an almighty God. This is well worth a buy. The Album is due out July 26th which gives you time to get some money ready. This is one you will really want to have in your rotation.

Mat is serving in an internship with a church in Lawrence, KS  where he serves in worship leadership.

Justin Hitchborn [harmonylounge.wordpress.com | @hitchface | facebook.com/hitchface]

Hope’s Anthem is a record that really did something neat in me. With a market so saturated like that of praise and worship music, I can very honestly say that if I see a name I don’t recognize, I make a series of unfair assumptions; I generally feel like I need to strap in and prepare to be blasted by the same stuff I heard yestermonth. In this case, I came away from my first listen a little sheepish and more than satisfied. There were a lot of those “Ooh! I like that!” moments throughout the whole disc, both musically and lyrically. Here are a few of the songs that really did it for me.

The CD opener, I’m Free, was just too fun. This tune begs for stomped foot, raised voice, clapped hand and joyous heart as it takes us on a simple journey of understanding that we are indeed free in Jesus, and what it means for us. The innocent manner in which this song tackles this monumental truth is truly refreshing, and maybe we can learn something from it. We are free. Period.

We Believe is, among other things, a prayer for cities and nations; this is the kind of song a kingdom-minded congregation will latch onto and run with. The whole thing sings like a prayer, and a big prayer at that! Calling for nations to be free and all promises to be fulfilled is a big deal, and between the soaring chorus and contemplative lows, the song has “genuine” written all over it.

So Good To Me is, hands down, no holds barred, 100%, without equivocation, my favorite song on this disc. The truly awesome groove and incredibly strong message of blessing both conspire to make a song that won’t be forgotten soon. As it says at the end, “I got love, joy, peace and righteousness in the Holy Spirit!” This tune just makes me wanna sing that for hours.

The Lord is My Shepherd, as the name implies, draws very heavily from Psalm 23. Simply because of the richness of that particular passage of Scripture, I anticipate a great number of people really getting into this tune. Honestly, there isn’t much to say about the song other than “Listen to it and love it.” There is an incredible spirit of peace and joy in this song, which ought to be predictable given the foundation it was built on.

Truth be told, this whole CD is blessed with some great listening. The accomplished musicianship lends credibility to songs that already have a solid footing in Scripture, and even though by today’s standards it isn’t all congregation-friendly, I could easily see the right crowd catching what William Matthews has got. If a song like any of these popped up at church, I’d be singing in no time flat. And you can bet I’m going to try the ones listed above for that very purpose.

Justin is the director of worship arts at The Well (www.thewellchurch.ca), and blogs about  theology, team dynamics, leadership, gear, CD reviews and anything else that might just feel right at the time at harmonylounge.wordpress.com.

You can order William’s newest project, Hope’s Anthem, from the Bethel Store.