Review: SOJOURN – Over the Grave: the Isaac Watts Project Volume One



Over the Grave: the Isaac Watts Project Volume One
(c)2009 Sojourn Music


Sojourn Community Church is not new to creating original worship music, but with their 5th release they have taken “original” to a whole new level.  That’s not to say that there aren’t detectable influences, but that they all converge to create something quite unique.  Spanning Over the Grave are hints of the John Mayer Trio, Caedmon’s Call, Led Zeppelin, Heart, Sovereign Grace Music, the Beatles, and even Evanescence – combined with up-dated Isaac Watts lyrics, it is a virtual smorgasbord of ancient, classic, and modern – and it WORKS!

First, there are the lyrics: the numerous songwriters taking part in this project did an excellent job of conveying the meaning, weightiness, and even the poetry of Isaac Watts’ original hymns and  not only rephrasing them – when necessary – in words easily understood by modern ears, but setting them to music that complements the thrust and feel of each lyric.  Regarding the musicianship, these folks are all members of Sojourn Community Church, and let me just say that they’ve got an awful lot of incredible talent gathered behind those doors, as the performances here are absolutely masterful.  Lastly, the CD not only sounds good, but looks absolutely beautiful, which is even more shocking when you discover that even the audio production and artwork/design were done in-house by members of Sojourn.

Stand out tracks are many, and hard to narrow down, but I do have favorites.  “How Long” is a soulful, bluesy number with Psalm-like honesty and sung with brokenhearted passion.  “Reveal Your Love” is both 70’s and nu-metal all at once, and the drummer sounds like he could just explode at any second – I’m serious, the percussion on that one is off-the-chain.  The two most corporately useful songs play back to back towards the CD’s end.  “May Your Power Rest on Me”, a powerful Amy-Lee-style ballad, is both singable, simple, and beautiful.  “Refuge”, likely my choice if there was to be a single, is reminiscent of some of Sovereign Grace Music’s latest and greatest – catchy, lyrically solid, God-centered, and melodically memorable – and would be an uplifting addition to nearly any church’s catalog.

In closing, though I hate to overstate my case, as a life-long U2 fan, OVER THE GRAVE is challenging NO LINE ON THE HORIZON as my favorite release of the year –  it is that good.  In fact, I don’t recall the last time I was so moved by a “worship record”.  Buy this CD.  Read the lyrics.  Sing these songs.  This is one “Volume One” that most definitely deserves a “Volume Two”.  Let it be soon!