Nothing Left to Lose
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2006 1 Jan
- Nothing Left to Lose
- Crashing Down
- Girl America
- Can't Break Her Fall
- What's a Boy to Do
- All I Need
- Where We Gonna Go from Here
- Won't Back Down
No one can ever say for sure who the next big act will be when it comes the music business, but discovering such talent usually starts with discerning the leaders from the followers. Lamentably, a lot of Christian artists are set up to be followers, either emulating what's worked before in CCM or else offering a "safe alternative" to popular secular artists. The better artists, however, find a way to shape a sound that's readily identifiable, easily marketable, and relatively unique, even if it is a simple fusion of styles instead of something wholly original.
That's precisely the case with Mat Kearney, who moved to Nashville from his home state of Oregon five years ago and began writing and recording with the likes of Stacie Orrico, ZOEgirl, DJ Maj, and The Katinas before finally inking a deal with Inpop Records as a solo artist. His 2004 debut
Kearney's buzz comes from his gift for fresh, marketable songs that are as relevant to secular audiences as they are to Christians. The former youth pastor spent years honing his sound, searching for a way to combine his love of pop melody, guitar, and piano with rap rhymes. The result is something that probably wouldn't work for most other artists—mellow Brit pop that's eerily similar to early Coldplay (Kearney's vocals closely resemble Chris Martin's) with some rapped lyrics that recall Everlast, Paul Wright, and early Beck. Yet Kearney somehow pulled it off with
Fans should note that six tracks here come from
As for the album's newer tracks, it's more of the same, though Kearney seems to be downplaying his hip-hop influences in favor of even more Brit pop ambience, particularly through the addition of guitarist Paul Moak (Over the Rhine, Derek Webb).
"Wait" is simply another plea of brokenness resembling "Won't Back Down" and "Undeniable." But the title track and lead single is extremely catchy with its autobiographical expression of Kearney's spiritual journey from Oregon to Nashville, and the similar sounding "Crashing Down" offers a touching depiction of loving dependence in a relationship that seems more spiritual than earthly.
The new piano ballad "All I Need" is more romantic in nature, punctuated by low strings and anthemic guitar that eventually builds into
Kearney won't really draw fans from the hardcore hip-hop audience, but he does succeed in making hip-hop more palatable to listeners of shoegazer alt-pop. And though his spirituality can be subtle in his songwriting, it's clearly there when you search for it, much like Switchfoot or Lifehouse. All of which demonstrates why Kearney's interesting and unclassifiable sound is so effective in bridging the sacred and secular, and hopefully making him one of Christian music's most promising artists for years to come.