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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Love Letter

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Jun
Love Letter
Sounds like … everything from Casting Crowns and Phillips, Craig & Dean to Todd Agnew and Scott Stapp.At a glance … he has the voice, but Brian Smith needs better songs, a higher pop quotient, and more interesting musical ideas to shine.Track Listing Never Let You Go
Save Me from Myself
Love Is a New Day
Hold On
Love Letter
Runaway Train
Thank You
These Moments
(Bonus) Love Like Rain

When America chooses an Idol, Sony-BMG generally diverts them to a label that fits the singer's style. When talent-search hopeful Brian Smith won the 2005 Gospel Dream competition—a small-scale Idol knockoff—he was promised a record deal with Zomba Gospel, the label home of gospel greats like Donnie McClurkin, Kurt Carr, and Dorinda Clark-Cole. This artist-label pairing would be fine if Smith were a Byron Cage in the making. Turns out he's not.

Instead, husky-voiced Smith is pure Christian AC through and through, more akin to Casting Crowns front man Mark Hall than any of the aforementioned gospel singers. But Zomba made do with their commitment to Gospel Dream and released Smith's debut Love Letter. As inexperienced as the label seems to be in AC pop, the label enlisted the production help of veteran Steve Huff (Mary Mary, Joann Rosario) and Big Daddy Weave's Jeremy Redmon (Lincoln Brewster).

As a powerhouse vocalist, Smith needs powerhouse everything—songs, hooks, and arrangements. However, Love Letter is quite the opposite—understated, rough-around-the-edges, unmemorable, with nary a sense of composition, and overall underwhelming. Smith himself co-wrote the majority of it, and without looking at the credits, it's not difficult to guess which songs are his. After all, like most Idol winners, he was selected for his singing, not his songwriting.

Some hired guns co-wrote the better tracks, such as the sweeping "Mercy," a Marc Byrd-penned ballad where Smith really shines, or the interesting "Save Me from Myself," a semi-rocker co-written by Ian Eskelin (All Star United). But on the whole, Love Letter lacks the sophistication, polish, and pop appeal required of a talent-search winner or promising new debut. It comes across more like a runner-up's requisite post-show album—the type that gets released long after the season finale is done.

© Andree Farias, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.