Porch and Altar
- reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
Charlie Hall's Porch and Altar marks the second release on sixstepsrecords, a worship label designed to be a medium for artists to express their praise to God without having to deal with the sometimes-distracting marketing aspect of the Christian industry. The label formed out of the well-received Passion worship movement, thanks to founder and acclaimed speaker Louie Giglio. Giglio and Hall previously teamed up with Chris Tomlin, Nathan Nockels from Watermark, and others to create several live recordings, including the Better is One Day project.
Thankfully, Hall's entire history of leading worship, including this album, showcases his sincere desire to give God the glory rather than find fame on this earth. Hall never appears flashy, trendy, or in a rock-star mode when performing, and he even keeps his CD covers simple. Like his two independent releases, Joel's Window and Thought, the cover for Porch and Altar is modest, revealing only a shadow of Hall playing a guitar. Perhaps such humility comes from the fact that Hall approaches the albums he makes with the same reverence he would display during a church service. He serves regularly at a church in Oklahoma City and has been a youth leader for the past 10 years.
Perhaps it's Hall's decade-long work with the young adult culture that has given his music an alternative, college-oriented flavor. His latest project features a mix between acoustic and electric guitars. Some songs rock out in epic proportion while others demonstrate a vocal urgency that invites others to sing along. Straight out rock comes in the form of "Once for All" and "Holy Visitation." "Once for All" is the disc's most glossy track production-wise. It combines gritty guitars, direct vocals, and distorted keyboards. "Holy Visitation" also features the sounds of a full rock band that particularly jams during the last two minutes of chorus repetition.
Porch and Altar includes a clever version of "Salvation," as previously heard on the Passion series. Although a sea of choir voices is absent on this version, Hall's vocals are a lot crisper than the previously recorded live versions. "Immersed" has a mid-tempoe pace with a relaxing groove brought on by a rolling tom drum. During the track, Hall sounds a lot like the late Michael Hutchence of INXS, while the beat bears resemblance to the group's smash "Not Enough Time." "Don't Pass Us By" has a soulful keyboard sequence that matches perfectly to Hall's vocals, conjuring up the sounds of mainstream virtuoso Howard Jones.
The last four songs, which move listeners into an introspective state of mind, are the best part of this project. "Make Straight" begins that sequence, telling the story of John the Baptist crying out to others in preparation for the Lord's incarnation. "The Cross" is a touching acoustic ballad pointing to the cleansing and comforting power of Christ's cross. "Savior of the World" extends on those images, provoking thoughts of the Resurrection. It reminds us that Jesus' ultimate sacrifice, followed by his victory, inspires us to stand firm while being lights to the world. "One Thing" is an emotional album closer based on Psalm 27:4. It states: "One thing I ask, one thing I seek, let me gaze upon you." The beat brings to mind the Passion classic "The Heart of Worship," originally penned by Matt Redman. Hall encourages listeners to remain God-focused amidst the complexities of life that can so easily entangle us.
Hall not only achieves high marks for his musical ability, but also for presenting such deep and foundational spiritual truths in an accessible manner. It's refreshing to listen to this project and not pick up a contrived attitude, which can sometimes slip into the worship trend. I most admire Hall's humble aim of making God famous rather than himself as an artist. Having that attitude means much more in the eternal perspective than any pleasures the earth could ever offer.