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I Have a Hope

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Mar
I Have a Hope
Sounds like … the accessible worship songwriting of Chris Tomlin with the vocals of Daryl Hall or Steven Curtis Chapman, and the smooth, soulful, and skillful musicianship of Israel & New Breed, as well as Monk & NeagleAt a glance … Tommy Walker is precisely what the increasingly conventional modern worship movement needs—a talented songwriter and Spirit-led leader with strong instrumental skills and a knack for expressing timeless truths in new waysTrack Listing I Have a Hope Hallelujah, We Will Sing In the Light of Your Glory Speak to Me Do It, Lord I Believe, I Believe Your Love From Jerusalem Pass It On Holy Spirit Come

Before Israel Houghton and Chris Tomlin, there was Tommy Walker, a worship leader for 15 years with several songs on the CCLI chart, including "Mourning Into Dancing" and "He Knows My Name." Hard to say why he's failed to earn widespread recognition to this point, but after a lengthy four-year absence, he's back on the scene with I Have a Hope, his first nationally released studio effort.

For those unfamiliar with Walker's sound, imagine Daryl Hall or Steven Curtis Chapman singing to a smooth, soulful pop style. A trained jazz guitarist, the dude knows how to assemble a skillful worship team, from the gospel-styled backing vocalists to the experienced instrumentalists—hence comparisons to Israel & New Breed's talented musicianship.

Perhaps it's the studio setting, but I Have a Hope is actually one of Walker's most soulful efforts to date, from the hopeful title track to the invitational closer "Holy Spirit Come," a simple praise chorus in the tradition of "Sanctuary" or "I Love You Lord." One of the album's most joyous standouts is playfully jazzy R&B shuffle of "Your Love," an irresistible toe-tapper that draws from the Psalms to express God's inescapable care.

What helps boost Walker's sound is the confident and established production of Ed Cash, who wisely avoids steering Walker toward Tomlin territory, opting instead for the jazzy grooves of Monk & Neagle. "Pass It On" (not the well-known '70s worship song) is the closest thing to Tomlin-styled modern worship here, an up-tempo rocker about sharing the greatness of God to others through worship, and it's a welcome change of pace amid all the soulful balladry and R&B influenced grooves.

The production serves to elevate Walker's masterful worship writing, which is driven by smartfully worded expressions of praise, a firm grasp of congregational-friendly melodies, and the freedom and confidence to use instruments for God's glory. These qualities bring a powerful swell to songs like the Revelation-themed "Hallelujah, We Will Sing," spirited musicianship to the prophetic "Do It, Lord," tenderness to the ballad "In the Light of Your Glory," and lyrics that inspire both heart and intellect in mission themed "From Jerusalem."

I've never heard a worship leader lead from the studio quite as successfully as this album, which is perhaps testament to the considerable gifts of Tommy Walker, a pioneer who may have been ahead of his time early on, but precisely what's needed to kick-start the modern worship movement from tired conventions.

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