Today Is the Day
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2008 9 Sep
- Today Is the Day
- Everywhere I Go
- Give Him Praise
- God You Reign
- The Arms of My Savior
- This Love
- The Power of Your Name
- The Love of God
- Salvation Is Here
- Let Your Glory Shine
You'd think Lincoln Brewster would be better known than he currently is. As a singer, songwriter, worship leader, and guitarist extraordinaire, he's got the skills—part Chris Tomlin, part Phil Keaggy (at least the rock side of Keaggy)—as well as the connections, playing with such big names as Steve Perry (Journey) and Michael W. Smith, writing with the likes of Paul Baloche and Hillsong. The guy's also certainly had his share of radio hits, most recently his No. 1 cover of Brenton Brown's "Everlasting God." Yet he's still not quite a household name in Christian music, or as widely recognized a worship leader as his contemporaries.
Part of the problem has been a drought of original material in recent years. Brewster's last all-new studio album, Amazed, was released in 2002, and though 2005's All to You … Live did offer some original worship songs, the concert recording didn't generate as much buzz as his earlier albums. His best-of collection, Let the Praises Ring, released the following year as a reminder of just how good those albums were, but its only new tracks were two worship covers. We've been long overdue for a return to form by Brewster, who has kept busy by focusing his efforts on raising a family and serving as a Worship Arts Pastor at Bayside Church near Sacramento, California. At least Brewster has never been completely absent, making guest appearances on many a worship album. But Today Is the Day finally marks Brewster's return to recording.
It's a welcome return to form, even if the first two songs aren't the strongest way to start. Not that either one is bad or boring. The opening title track (and radio single), written with Baloche, combines the message of Matthew 6 with Psalm 118 for an upbeat and encouraging anthem on par with the average modern worship song. But it's also plenty similar to such songs, both by Brewster and worship artists in general. "Everywhere I Go" fares about the same. Written with Glenn Packiam (Desperation Band), it's a bouncy and exuberant slice of worship, like Tree63's "Joy" done in Michael W. Smith's '90s pop style. Though these two opening tracks create a sense of familiarity that many modern worship enthusiasts will embrace, many others will assume Brewster wrote this album on autopilot.
That would be a bad assumption since things only get better after the opening. Recalling the early Brewster favorite "Everybody Praise the Lord," the bluesy gospel-rock of "Give Him Praise" borrows its text from Psalm 9. A little reminiscent of Robert Randolph & the Family Band, it's one of those contagious songs that spark excitement during worship because the music is so thrilling and joyful. "God You Reign" operates much the same way, even though it sounds completely different. The beautiful, shimmering guitar-pop ballad has a simplistic, repetitive chorus that very closely resembles the melody (and title) of Delirious' "Our God Reigns," though congregations are more likely to latch on to this one and sing it loud with the sweet and engaging melody and the more generalized lyrics.
Parts of Today Is the Day also reveal Brewster's love of John Mayer's music. And why not? Both are impressive guitarists, and it's a fresh style that hasn't truly been applied to worship until now. We're not talking about Mayer's early acoustic guitar style either. "The Arms of My Savior" is a bluesy ballad descended from Mayer's "Gravity," and while it's not a song the average church will embrace, it's a worshipful expression from a skilled artist that's absolutely awesome in songwriting and performance. In contrast, many a worship teams can adapt "This Love," which resembles the smooth soulful shuffle of Mayer's hit "Waiting on the World to Change"—it's a lovely fit for the church.
This is an album that does worship right in so many ways, demonstrating how God can be glorified with a variety of sounds and styles. It succeeds because of Brewster's willingness to reach beyond the modern worship template—and thus makes the more routine songs shine because they're different from the other tracks. Furthermore, Brewster's worship music is only energized by his blazing guitar work, never sidetracked by it. His playing on "Let Your Glory Shine" makes for an astonishing prog rock interlude/jam in between the praise of the verses—similar to what The Michael Gungor Band has done before, but perhaps better. Even the album's sole cover song is an impressive feat—it's the most rocking version of "Salvation Is Here" you'll ever hear, and that's truly saying something since it originated with the always energetic Hillsong United.
If anything, it'd be great to hear Brewster break out further, since he seems capable of a worship album as creative as Michael Gungor Band, if not David Crowder Band's A Collision. But then he's primarily focused on accessible worship songs, which more often than not satisfy just as well. Will this be the album that puts Brewster in the same category as, say, Chris Tomlin? Time will tell. I'm just glad to hear this uniquely skilled worship artist recording again after all this time.