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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

I Turn to You

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Jun
I Turn to You
Sounds like … the inspirational AC pop of Mark Harris, Casting Crowns, NewSong, and Michael English, with only faint echoes of the country-pop of Lonestar and Sawyer BrownAt a glance … rather than focus on new solo material that meaningfully shares his faith through country-pop, former Lonestar vocalist Richie McDonald opts for a derivative and clichéd collection of inspirational adult contemporaryTrack Listing Carry the Cross I Turn to You Stay with Me Lord He's Alive Faith Handle with Prayer What Would He Do Walls Blessed Are the Hands That Give Hey God (acoustic)

After 15 years as the lead vocalist of Lonestar, Richie McDonald left the superstar country band behind to spend more time with family while focusing on other kinds of music. He started his solo career in 2007 with If Every Day Could Be Christmas, which was comparably more secular than Lonestar's more sacred-themed This Christmas Time. But the 46-year-old singer/songwriter's Christianity comes through loud and clear with I Turn to You, an inspirational release reflecting his passion for making a difference in the lives of others by relating faith through song.

Lonestar has always treaded a fine line between country and pop, evidenced by their signature hit "Amazed." This album falls more clearly into AC pop territory, with only the occasional slide guitar, mandolin, and McDonald's Southern-grown vocals to remind us of his country roots. But going the pop route is not unusual in today's country music climate, and since most big-name artists have relied on covers of church classics for inspirational country, McDonald had the opportunity to branch out and offer something new with his original songs of faith.

Unfortunately, "something new" and "original" are two qualities sorely lacking here. Encouragement abounds, especially in the title ballad, which affirms God's strength as a source of comfort for all. But "Carry the Cross" is by-the-numbers pop resembling Mark Harris, NewSong, and Michael English—and not nearly as good. Lest you confuse "He's Alive" with Don Francisco's Easter-themed classic, this one's an extremely formulaic AC pop expression of Christ living in us. For that matter, the lyrics say nothing insightful about faith that hasn't been worded more meaningfully in other songs. As you might guess, "What Would He Do" is merely a rehash of WWJD, and the album's most clever lyric is a testament to prayer with the hokey title "Handle with Prayer."

The greatest frustration? McDonald is also releasing a country project in 2008 called Slow Down. That one is presumably aimed to country radio while this one attempts to make waves with Christian radio. But with inspirational country doing well, why segregate the two? As demonstrated by this disc's great acoustic rendition of "Hey God" (a song which originally appeared on Lonestar's Mountains), it's possible to deliver a thoughtful country song with personality, a memorable tune, and an overt message of faith. Aside from that remake, this album fails to bring anything new or interesting to the Christian music genre. I hate to say it, but McDonald would have been better off recording an album of inspirational covers rather than this uninspired approach to inspirational pop.

© Andree Farias, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.