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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Oct
Sounds like … Coldplay's Chris Martin after a hip-hop rebirth, atop arrangements that are more Brit-pop than hip-hopAt a glance … more attention-grabbing than Shawn McDonald and less frivolous than Paul Wright, Mat Kearney's interesting debut isn't afraid to mix sensibilitiesTrack ListingTrainwreckUndeniableBulletGirl AmericaIn the MiddleRenaissanceCall MePoor BoyWalking AwayTomorrowWon't Back Down

If you're a hip-hop aficionado, chances are you've heard of Mat Kearney and of his longtime friend, Robert "Aurel M" Marvin. The Oregon natives moved to Nashville, the Christian music capital, looking to expand their craft. Kearney ended up with a record deal at Inpop, while Marvin became a sought-after pop producer. Both have collaborated extensively with the likes of ZOEgirl, the Katinas, and DJ Maj, and now Kearney is ready to strike out on his own with his label debut Bullet. Those familiar with Kearney's guest raps will notice that Bullet is less urban than his previous cameos and much more informed by acoustic meandering, live drumming, and at times the Brit-pop emotiveness of Coldplay.

Yes, Kearney not only is an adept street rhymer, but can in the course of one song don the hat of Chris Martin impersonator, imbuing his enunciation with delicate, swoon-inducing brokenness plus the trademark, simple chordage Martin is known for. When he's not singing for the ladies, however, he's versatile enough to switch back to his Beck-meets-Everlast urban poet persona, and it's in those moments that he shines the most. Whether a martyr ("Bullet"), a worshipper ("Undeniable"), or a social commentator ("Girl America"), his songs strike a good balance between street cred and pop sensibility, one never outweighing the other.

It's a combination that works well here, but one that proved lethal in the case of Paul Wright, who favored fashion over substance and had trouble getting his summery anthems on the radio during the cold months of winter. Kearney went to great lengths to not trip on that same stone, and has delivered a debut that is likely to please heads and pop-lovers alike.