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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Aug
Sounds like … Brit-influenced pop/rock that most resembles By the Tree, Coldplay, Paul Colman Trio, and Counting CrowsAt a glance … Ten Shekel Shirt demonstrates considerable growth on their sophomore effort and becomes more culturally relevant by offering thoughtful lyrics and a revitalized sound

Two-and-a-half years after their debut CD, Ten Shekel Shirt returns to the scene with their anticipated sophomore effort. The simple title of Risk means many things in the context of this band, starting with the change in their sound and songwriting focus. The Shirts are best known for radio hits "Ocean" and "Meet With Me," the two best songs from their very worshipful debut, Much.

And "much" has changed since. The band added guitarist Jake Carey to the lineup of drummer Austin Morrison, bassist Tommy Lee, and singer/guitarist/lyricist Lamont Hiebert. Produced by Brent Milligan (and Monroe Jones on one track), Risk finds Ten Shekel Shirt embracing more of a modern pop/rock sound with a distinct Brit-pop influence—think By the Tree, Paul Colman Trio, Coldplay, and Counting Crows. And while Hiebert has earned recognition as a worship leader over the last couple of years, the band's latest is more introspective and focused on relationships than Much, though it still has its worshipful and vertical moments. With Risk, Ten Shekel Shirt is more committed than ever to not only making music for those in the church, but those outside of it. Hiebert rightly notes that we don't only encounter God in worship, but in our everyday living as well.

Hence the band's commitment to not just telling about God's love, but showing it. They recently became involved with International Justice Mission (, an organization aiding the world's voiceless oppressed. In fact, Ten Shekel Shirt started Justice For Children International in their current home of New Haven, Connecticut, to assist IJM by raising awareness. This new mission inspired "Over the Room," a kind and comforting song with joyous lyrics based on a true story about a girl held captive in a room without sunlight; it also serves as a metaphor for anyone who has broken free from oppression, physical or spiritual.

Risk, then, is an album that tries to challenge listeners to take risks—to step outside their comfort zones and please the Lord by loving others, as expressed in the title track: "I'm allowed to live, to make the Maker smile/I vow to give the best years of my life." The album's first CHR single, "Cheer Up," borrows a line from the late Bob Briner (author of "Roaring Lambs"), which offers the encouragement of grace in an unusual way: "Cheer up, you are worse off than you figure/But you are loved anyway and I always see who you could be." The similarities to Coldplay are striking here, as well as on "February," a melancholic, mid-tempo ballad with prominent keyboard instrumentation about the death of Hiebert's brother and mother, who both died the same month eight years apart.

It's appropriately followed by the soaring ballad "Always Known You," which offers the perspective of one who encounters God intimately for the first time: "The silence may not cry out with sound, but it speaks Your name, Your names/And the dreaming of a better place, it rests deep in me." Even better is "This Story," an energetic song reminiscent of Counting Crows that expresses the thoughts of a non-believer coming to Christ, likening it to walking in on a movie late: "I haven't been here very long/Easily I could get this story all wrong." The first AC radio single "Poorest King" is also geared toward new Christians. Building nicely from a contemplative piano sound to a densely layered modern pop production, it serves as a concise testimony/creed following Christ from the manger to the tomb, all "to see Him as He is without a veil between/Face to face again for all eternity."

Fans who really enjoyed the band's original worship sound needn't fear. Ten Shekel Shirt has recorded another worship album, which will be available in 2004 to help raise funds for IJM. Nevertheless, give this album a chance. The band's newfound fascination with Brit-flavored pop/rock is nothing revolutionary—artists such as Paul Colman Trio and By the Tree have approached it with similar results—but it is still done very well. More impressive still are Hiebert's lyrics, which are much more thoughtful and insightful this time. Much introduced Ten Shekel Shirt as a capable worship band, but Risk establishes them as a solid and relevant rock band that seeks to reach beyond church walls.