Artist: Casey Darnell
Title: Casey Darnell
Label: North Point Music

“We can’t hold back our grateful song,” declares Atlanta’s North Point Community Church worship leader Casey Darnell on “Marvelous,” the opening rocker from his self-titled sophomore album. Indeed, there’s a joy in the track that feels uncontainable, genuine, and endures throughout the project.  It may not ultimately be anything that other church-based praise and worship recordings haven’t already done in recent years, but it’s done well, and this guy manages to add in just enough pop knowhow to keep Casey Darnell from getting lost in the crowded sea of similarly catchy releases.

“Strong Enough” is praise with a rhythmic Top 40 twist, possessing a sing-along radio readiness on par with the best of the Passion movement hits. “All the World” straps on a stirringly strummed acoustic guitar and kicks up some matching percussive dust for a Mumford-like statement about sharing the gospel with everyone. Similarly, “I Will Stand by You” packs whistling, snapping, and foot stomping into a Phillip Phillips flavored celebration of true friendship—again, not groundbreaking but fun and current.

What’s fresh is the unexpected 1950s piano at the start of “Over and Over,” a smartly configured pop number that testifies to the faithfulness of Jesus with a big, bright chorus. In true worship leader form, Casey’s voice doesn’t get in the way but simply facilitates getting across the deeper message at hand. “When You Smile” is even more pleasantly surprising—an almost country ode to marriage (“It’s not a Hollywood dream; it’s a lifetime thing”) with crossover potential that manages not to stick out like a sore thumb on a worship record. Credit is due to producer Ian Eskelin for making everything flow.

More than anything, Darnell succeeds in pointing back to the cross of Christ at just about every turn. “We Believe”—combining the rock and electronic strengths of acts like U2 and Newsboys—memorably describes how, “Your love brings the wall of hatred to its knees.” The unfailing love of a savior in every season of life is plainly, powerfully articulated in the probing “What Will You Do?” Finally, “Never Be the Same” speaks to the lasting change that will result from being in a growing relationship with God.

Good food for thought that doubles as pleasing modern worship music to the ears: that’s Casey Darnell.

*This Review Published 12/27/2013