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Born to Worship Commemorates Kelly’s Freedom

  • Kevan Breitinger CMCentral.com
  • 2008 14 Apr
<i>Born to Worship</i> Commemorates Kelly’s Freedom

Artist:  Sarah Kelly
Title:  Born to Worship
Label:  Gotee Records

Sarah Kelly goes back to her roots as a worship leader in this collection of songs that she has been writing and singing in churches for the past two years, although one in particular has been germinating in her spirit for twenty! Kelly indicates that the album also serves to chronicle her personal journey away from “self-hatred and abuse.” It is because of this release, apparently a long time coming, that she is finally worshipping in true freedom, and many of the new songs commemorate just that.
Pulsating pop rocker “Brand New Day” opens the project on this celebratory note, a slight techno vibe under its sunny lyrics:  “I was slipping, I was wrong/ I was bitter in my song/ Til you found me.” It must be said, Kelly’s strength does not lie in her lyrical prowess but in her rock chops. A lot of her lyrics are the standard praise words we’ve heard all too often already. But it’s impossible to argue with her sincerity; I began to find rocker “You Overwhelm Me” more of the same until the choir entered mid-way through. Its soulful delivery and the solid percussive bounce on the way out won me over completely. The track works sonically and Kelly seals the deal easily with her heartfelt gratitude.

Her bluesy vocal is strong again on “Not Quite Home Yet,” its hushed opening injecting a worshipful sense of grandeur. The piano lays down thick chords for the return of the choir, and the worshipful chorus is hard to resist as well. I also enjoyed the subtle male echoing vocal on “Faithful Father,” written at a student teaching session a few years back. It’s easy to tell these songs carry deep meaning to Kelly, and her unique voice imbues each with an easy affection.
But of course, Sarah Kelly is first of all a rocker, so when the bluesy title track kicks in it’s all good. Last year, she spent two months leading worship at a Chicago church, where this track was written. All churches should have this much fun celebrating the King! It’s Kelly at her best, and the bridge is pure bliss. “Everything to Me” is more pop-oriented but notable for the honesty of its lyrics, especially considering her personal journey: “Unchain my mind/ to mean these words I sing.” That one is for all of us.
A slow rock burn underlies the stately movements of “Beautiful God,” examining the dichotomy of our experience of God, our occasional inability to believe He loves us as He says He does. Love the way Kelly and producer Mitch Dane juxtapose delicate piano tinkles against the thick guitar rock riffs. The gentle “Sit with You a While” powerfully illustrates the devoted posture of Mary, the choir and guitar nuances adding luster to the reverent track. And Kelly really cuts loose with a celebratory, ambient take on closer “Amazing Grace,” her vocals searing over the track’s pulsating rhythms.

In the end, the honest sincerity and rock gusto of Sarah Kelly’s Born to Worship overshadows any lyrical frailties.

 © 2008 CMCentral.com.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission. 

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**This review first published April 14, 2008.