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Sounds like … an amalgam of Christian pop, worship, and contemporary gospel styles, encompassing Steve Green, Chris Tomlin, Fred Hammond, and othersAt a glance … though not nearly as soulful as his previous efforts, Free is the closest representation of Darwin Hobbs' artistic and spiritual heartTrack Listing Free Heal the Land Crosswalk Name of the Lord Your Grace Is Enough I Repent Who You Are I Praise You In This Place My Sacrifice of Praise Free (acoustic) He's Able (live)
In case you haven't noticed, Darwin Hobbs has a thing for one-word album titles. Vertical, Mercy, Broken, and Worshipper have all established him as one of the most powerful vocalists in all of Christian and gospel music. The albums were a result of his deep connections in the industry and a celebrated run singing background vocals for some of the biggest names in CCM, including Michael W. Smith, CeCe Winans, Jars of Clay, Chris Tomlin, Switchfoot, and countless others.
Despite the singing prowess and earning his share of acclaim, however, none of his albums have been personable enough to capture Darwin Hobbs the man. His fifth album and first for Tyscot Records seeks to rectify that. Free paints a portrait of a victim who has come to grips with the demons of his past—most notably the terrible, long-held secret of sexual abuse at the hands of his own stepfather—and now seen the light at the end of the tunnel, experiencing true emancipation.
But as Free attests, the freedom isn't just spiritual. Musically, Hobbs sounds more liberated than ever, adopting styles and sensibilities that were out of the question during his EMI Gospel tenure. An admitted CCM fanatic, Hobbs for the first time tries his hand at anthemic Christian pop, never more evident in the title track. For those who are used to the singer's soulful, Luther Vandross-like affectations, the move is a bit out of character, but he's having the time of his life calling all the shots.
This autonomy allows Hobbs to do a little bit of everything, like try his best Billy Joel impression ("Heal the Land"), team up with some of his backup-singing friends ("Crosswalk"), have some serious church ("The Name of the Lord"), lead worship ("Your Grace Is Enough," "In This Place"), cover a song by one of his favorites (Steve Green's "I Repent"), and enter the very throne room of God ("Who You Are," "I Praise You"). As such, Free is a little bit all over the place, but Hobbs seems right at home artistically and spiritually. He is free indeed.