Grace Like Rain
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Jul
The distinct influences on Todd Agnew's music are unmistakable in his national debut,
The 32-year-old Native American was adopted and raised by a Christian family in Texas, growing up in the church on a steady diet of traditional and contemporary worship music. In time, Todd became a youth worship leader, and he began noticing that worshippers become complacent over time: "When I learned a song at a camp, I sang it with all I had, but when I sang in church, it was just routine." Todd honed a talent for fusing contemporary rock styles–like Dave Matthews Band (DMB) and Creed–with worship. He eventually looked up Christian music veteran Dana Key (DeGarmo & Key), asking to use his Ardent Studios in Memphis to record an independent project. Dana ended up offering Todd a recording contract that the young artist never intended to pursue.
Blending modern rock styles with worship is hardly unique, but it's rarely done this well. Often, the results aren't compatible with congregational singing, but Todd pulls it off. His magnificent "Grace Like Rain" takes the familiar text of "Amazing Grace," changes the melody, adds a new worship chorus, and sets it all against a modern acoustic rock style resembling DMB and U2. (A slightly less effective "rock mix" of the song–more reminiscent of Creed–is one of two hidden tracks. The other is a rock cover of the hymn "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us" akin to DMB's "Don't Drink the Water" and Third Day's "Show Me Your Glory.") There's also the hymn "Come Ye Sinners," again setting old words to a new acoustic rock sound and melody.
Todd has a terrific rock voice, somewhere between Dave Matthews' complex vocal style and Scott Stapp's pop-metal growl. He's a decent guitarist smart enough to surround himself with talented studio musicians who can recreate popular rock styles. "Reached Down" and "Romans 12:1" might sound too much like DMB, but few can mimic Matthews with such energy and excitement. And though "This Fragile Breath" sounds like a clichéd post-grunge power ballad, it's no different than Delirious copying U2 to inspire others to worship.
Another highlight is "Lay It Down," which effortlessly shifts from rock and blues to a full-throttle gospel vamp. "Still Here Waiting," a beautiful piano-and-strings ballad, is a passionate confessional: "I don't know where I turned around/From chasing what I always found completed me/More than I could dream/I don't know why I can't remain/Safe here where I always came to meet with You." A cover of Chris Tomlin's "Kindness" introduces some jazz instrumentation, a bluesy shuffle, and a duet with Shara Worden, who sounds similar to Jennifer Knapp
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