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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Dec
Sounds like … the Vinyeard-styled worship of Brian Doerksen and David Ruis, with a modern sound similar to Matt Redman, Lincoln Brewster, and David Crowder BandAt a Glance … Mercy is often too similar sounding and repetitive, but it sounds great, and there's enough here that's original and promising

Eoghan Heaslip is neither a typo nor a character name from Lord of the Rings — it's actually Irish. Acclaimed by such respected worship leaders as David Ruis and Brian Doerksen, "Owen Heeslip" hails from Dublin where he serves as a worship leader and music director at CORE (City Outreach through Renewal and Evangelism) Church, whose mission is to "be a people who would express the Kingdom of God in a way that is relevant to this generation." Influenced equally by mainstream artists (David Gray, U2, Relish) and worship leaders (David Ruis, Brian Doerksen, Martin Smith), Eoghan studied music at the Vineyard School of Worship in Vancouver, British Columbia, and has been referred to by some as "the Matt Redman of Ireland." After independently recording his debut release "Deeper Still," Eoghan was signed to Hosanna!/Integrity to release his national debut, Mercy, which was recorded live at his home church and was produced by Paul Mills (who also helmed the worship projects Let the River Flow and Revival in Belfast).

Mercy generally sounds the same throughout the album — a modern worship band led by Eoghan's acoustic guitar and highlighted by rhythm and keyboard programming effects. Think of him as a less aggressive David Crowder Band or a more energetic Tim Hughes. Naturally a live album is going to sound homogenous throughout, but the sameness also permeates the songwriting. Half of the album's thirteen tracks have the same upbeat, modern worship feel reminiscent of generic Vineyard worship. "All I Want to Do" is a simple but catchy opening worship song, and "All That Matters" is highlighted by a slick bass groove. "A Shield About Me (Lord You Are So Good)" is inspired by the Psalms, while "Glorious" draws from Revelation. "Faithful" exalts the Lord in a song of thankfulness and hope, and "Your Love" glorifies Jesus for all he accomplished on the cross with familiar words of worship — "Your love is higher than the mountains / Your love is deeper than the seas." Independently, the tracks are enjoyably simple and energetic expressions of praise. Collectively, the songs begin to blur together in their simplicity and similarity.

The sound doesn't vary until the sixth track in which Eoghan leads the worshipers in a somewhat improvised chorus of "O Come Let Us Adore Him," taken from the Christmas carol "O Come All Ye Faithful." This is followed by the first ballad of the album, "True Intimacy," a beautiful Vineyard-styled prayer song similar in theme to "Hungry" and "Breathe." There is an especially great rhythmic groove to "Arise King of Kings" that sets it apart from the other upbeat originals; it's a prayerful invocation co- written by Eoghan's wife Becky, who sings with the worship team. "Lord It's Your Mercy" is also quite catchy, distinguishing itself with a thoughtful chorus — "Lord it's Your selflessness that covers my weakness … it's Your faithfulness that speaks of Your greatness." Similar depth in writing is expressed in "The Father's Love," a fine ballad co-written by Brian Doerksen that relays an intimate portrait of our relationship to God the Father.

Eoghan's album has just two cover songs, both at the end of Mercy and, coincidentally, both featured studio tracks on Michael W. Smith's Worship Again. I have to credit Smitty with introducing me to Steve Merkel's "Lord Have Mercy," an excellent and poignantly worded song of confession, but Eoghan's version is simpler and therefore less intimidating. By toning down the orchestration he makes it more intimate and rhythmic, making it a more conventional worship song to be used in the average church service. Also included is Tim Hughes's "Here I Am to Worship," an already over-recorded song in its first year of release. Nevertheless, this is one of the better and more passionate versions available, surpassed only by Chris Tomlin's rendition on the Passion: Our Love Is Loud album.

Realistically speaking, Eoghan's songwriting is too simplistic and repetitive to earn him the same widespread recognition as Matt Redman, but he's still a young, burgeoning songwriter who offers more than enough reasons to pay attention to his work. The songs may blur together, but they are also straightforward, honest, and quite frankly sound terrific. They also demonstrate thought and passion instead of recycling worship clichés. Top all of that off with a CD booklet that includes track-by-track artist commentary and an enhanced disc with chord charts and lyrics, and you have a promising new worship leader with an album focused squarely on edifying the church while glorifying God. We unfortunately can't say that about all worship albums, but it qualifies for Mercy.