Never Looking Back
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
There was a worship release in 1999 called The Burn Service that received a considerable and deserved amount of attention in worship circles. The project featured praise and worship with a raw and emotional roots rock sound. It was musically and lyrically simplistic, but never tired or clichéd sounding. Never Looking Back is the follow-up to that project, and though it offers more of the same, this is a good thing. It's surprisingly difficult to find a worship album that's both refreshing and original that can also be performed by most any praise and worship band.
As with the first album, the music has an earthy roots-rock feel, almost classic in sound—early 1960s rock and roll like the Beatles used to play, though the jangly guitars often remind me of The Byrds as well. The only differences between this album and the first are the songs and the performers. Original Burn Service member Darren Clarke has stepped up to the role of producer, and he lends the album a slightly more professional feel this time (it's still raw sounding, but not as raw). Worship leader Ryan Delmore is still with the band (he still sounds very much like Derri Daugherty of The Choir) as is Jessie Lane, and they're joined by newcomer Joel Limpic. The overall sound is acoustic, though the band may also add electric guitar, hammond organ, and harmonica to the mix. Their classic roots-rock sound is terrific, but the real treat is the wealth of simple but effective original worship songs that they bring to the church at large. Not all of their songs are original ("I Believe in Jesus," for example), but their covers still benefit from thoughtful and straightforward arrangements. That all said, the songs are all equally good yet unremarkable. I might have singled some of them out if I had a lyric sheet. Just take my word for it that all the songs are enjoyable, but they sound the same after listening to the whole album.
These days, there are a lot of worship projects available that are very well done, but are also so well produced and skillfully performed it's hard to envision your typical novice praise band incorporating it into their worship service. Delirious' Glo album and the recent debut from Circadian Rhythm come to mind. There are also a lot of worship projects today that are almost mindless in their repetitiveness, singing "I will praise You" and "You are worthy" over and over and over again. The music on Never Looking Back is routine, but it's likably routine. This is simple worship music that's not too flashy (though very well done), and it's neither too complicated nor too repetitive or clichéd (though it's easy to gain spiritual nourishment from it). The Burn Service is an example of a well-performed but simple worship service, and Never Looking Back offers many original songs and arrangements that can be adapted by contemporary worship teams everywhere. To me, that's the ultimate glory a worship project can offer to God.