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Sounds like … a somewhat rougher, more alternative version of AC pop/rock by MercyMe, Casting Crowns, and Matthew WestAt a glance … though well-produced by Christian music standards, Running Back to You doesn't quite reflect Chris Sligh's interesting personality or song choices as reflected in his American Idol runTrack Listing Arise Cry Tonight I'm Clean Empty Me Something Beautiful Let You Know In a Moment Are You Pleased Potential Loaded Gun Waiting for You Love Is Raining Down Vessel
Season 6 of American Idol had more than its usual share of Christians among the finalists, and though Jordin Sparks and Phil Stacey both lasted longer in the competition and released their albums sooner, Chris Sligh outperformed both in terms of charisma and wit. Leave it to Sligh to make a quip on national television during his critique about Simon Cowell's involvement with Teletubbies and Il Divo. That smart aleck demeanor (along with his voice) is what endeared him to many, although it didn't always sit well with the viewing audience, and probably played a part in his early departure.
Despite his Idol run, Sligh didn't really need a solo deal outright—his band Half Past Forever was already gaining some attention. But after fielding several label offers, some of them challenging the singer/songwriter to try his hand at a more alternative style similar to Mute Math, Sligh settled on Atlanta-based indie Brash Music—the same company that broke worship leader Aaron Shust to the Christian mainstream. It's a good fit for Sligh, giving him the free rein to be himself as an artist, which is all the more puzzling in light of his middle-of-the-road solo debut Running Back to You.
There's nothing wrong with the album, per se. In a nutshell, it's soaring Christian pop/rock of the same order as MercyMe and Casting Crowns, only with a rougher and more alternative mix, all highlighted by Sligh's powerhouse tenor—and the brother can hit those money notes like it's nobody's business. For proof, look no further than the octave-jumping "Arise," a terrific modern rocker where Sligh really lets loose vocally.
But that song is the exception. Comparatively, the rest of Running Back to You is incredibly staid. Sligh sounds content with going through the motions, rarely venturing outside typical CCM to fashion something more in line with his quirky Idol persona. The only two songs displaying vestiges of left-of-centeredness are the atypical "Loaded Gun" (led entirely by a string quartet) and the synth-drenched "Love Is Raining Down," a furious rock number that pays homage to Sligh's alternative pop influences.
Aside from that, everything else on Running Back to You is business as usual—likable by Christian pop standards, but not at all representative of Sligh's inherent potential. We can only hope he'll take a chance on something more creative and distinctive next time around.