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Sounds like … acoustic pop/rock in the same family as Caedmon's Call, Jason Mraz, Shane Barnard, Shaun Groves, and Derek WebbAt a glance … McRoberts' insightful and honest songwriting continues to grow stronger, making him one of finest Christian artists that you may have never heard
Justin McRoberts has done without a record label for three years now, and it hasn't slowed him down in the slightest. In fact, the Californian is busier than ever, thriving as an independent artist, touring the nation, and putting to practice the outreach tools he learned as a Young Life leader. What's not to like? The guy's got great spiritual insight, a crazy sense of humor, talent for the acoustic guitar, and one of the most passionate and powerful vocals I've ever heard in Christian music.
Often overlooked are his songwriting skills. Insightful and honest, McRoberts knows how to create albums—not just a collection of songs, but a disc tied together thematically. Father (2000) was a cathartic response to his father's suicide. In 2001, he released an untitled worship EP. Trust (2002) was his best yet, written from the perspective of the seeker audience and challenging believers to build relationships with them. McRoberts says the thematic characteristic of his music is a result of what he's writing in his prayer journal—the songs simply reflect what he was thinking about at the time. Why don't more artists write this way?
With Intersections, McRoberts explores the subject of spiritual burnout and searching for faith in everyday living—dealing with valleys after mountaintop experiences. The theme is best summed up in "The Whole Way Home," a simple folk-pop song with a dramatic melody reminiscent of Mark Schultz: "Take me back to these days I spend with you/When every moment was bursting with this life we knew would last forever." McRoberts likens dissatisfaction and apathy to film in "Movie of My Life," strongly reminiscent of classic Caedmon's Call: "I feel like I'm living in a movie of my life/Someone else is playing me/Someone I don't really like/I am just an extra and I don't have many lines/I'm just standing in the shadows of the corners of my mind." In "Beautiful to Me," he searches for Christ in all of life, "not the rhythm or rhyme, but they way they entwine."
"Undecided" is challenging acoustic pop/rock, as bold as the great Mark Heard, written from God's perspective to those who haven't quite fully surrendered their lives: "You've been lying so long now/You don't know what's true anymore/Now you're begging me for my forgiveness/And you don't even know what for." The bluesy "Running in Circles" seems to represent our response to that, noting the cycle of our wandering hearts and God humbling us in order to return to him. "Haunted" explains how our past pains and failures can be used to help shape us: "But ghosts I see right through, and I can see through you/So all you'll ever do is be a shade I see tomorrow through."
By the end of Intersections, McRoberts is in awe of God's unfailing love, simply accepting his will with amens in "What Love Is This?" The album concludes with the hopeful-yet-melancholic "Keep on Driving," encouraging believers to press on despite the inevitable valleys ahead in our lives. Two other highlights depart from the overall album theme. "Qualifications for Love" is a satirical song about the shallowness of the male psyche concerning women, written in the same acoustic funk as Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz, and John Mayer. There's also an impressive acoustic cover of U2's "One," which McRoberts sings with nearly as much passion as Bono, save for the high falsetto wails of the original.
McRoberts' acoustic folk/pop sound is familiar in Christian music, thanks to the popularity of Shane Barnard, Bebo Norman, Caedmon's Call, Derek Webb, and Andrew Peterson, to name a few. The point is that he writes, performs, and communicates at least as effectively as any of those artists. Considering the popularity of guitar guys in music these days, someone needs to sign McRoberts—now. His talents are too strong to be confined to the indie scene, and he's only grown with experience over the last few years.