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Sounds like … if Travis or Coldplay made a worship album, this might be it—while mixing rock, pop, and folk in a style similar to Delirious, Phil Wickham, Matt Redman, and Telecast.At a glance … Jason Morant's follow-up to his acclaimed 2004 national debut is a bit long and aimless, but the individual songs are better than the whole, applying a rich stylistic blend to modern worship.Track Listing Open Come Let Us Return I Will Run Make Us One You're In Love Holy Is the Lord Offering Postlude Belong Abba 51st Veils Display My Love All of Me At Your Feet Hosanna
It's unfortunate the way some people unrealistically deem all modern worship music as good or bad, as if it were all created equally. Though all of it is (hopefully) created with the same intentions of praising to God, some artists and albums simply fare better than others. Like any genre of music, it can be hackneyed or creative, repetitive or catchy, limited only by imagination in sound and style.
Jason Morant is a worship artist with imagination, having grown up in a musical family, the church, and the culturally fertile city of New Orleans. Though he started last year on the follow-up to Abandon, his acclaimed national debut from 2004, recording was delayed because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Having spent some time aiding the New Orleans community and since relocating to Nashville, Morant at last finished Open, an album nearly as musically diverse as his hometown. Much like Travis and Coldplay, he seems equally comfortable with pop/rock and folk, allowing electric guitars and synths to intermingle with banjos and dulcimers. Thus the album ranges from upbeat Brit rock like "You're in Love," an expression of grace delivered with earnestness and energy, to floating alt-folk like "I Will Run," a simple worship song of dedication for the Lord that builds similar to a U2 anthem. With the exception of Delirious, few Christian acts sound as comfortable as Morant blending the two styles.
Drawing upon a talented pool of studio musicians, including brother Josh on drums and Gabe Scott (Bebo Norman, Andrew Peterson) on various folk instruments, Morant has a strong sonic palette to work with here, even allowing for a beautiful piano and synthesizer instrumental ("Postlude") or a lush string arrangement ("51st"). Set primarily to piano and brass, "Veils" is gorgeous in longing for a closer relationship with Jesus, and the equally poetic "Belong" uses dreamy folk-pop ambience to meditate on the meaning of Christ's sacrifice. "Make Us One" builds in instrumentation as Morant's plea for unity rises, and "Offering" benefits from a dramatic chord progression in its artful expression of surrender.
"Holy Is the Lord" could be the most overused title and phrase in worship music, but Morant's song is catchier than most, stunning in the way it captures the image of a heavenly choir singing worship with an otherworldly synth texture. Wrapping up Open is "Hosanna," an epic and almost operatic finale that utilizes Latin text in the chorus, beginning with an almost classical sounding piano and strings arrangement before swelling into a majestic pop/rock conclusion.
Where this album falls short is scope and direction. There's much to absorb in its lengthy 70-minute run time, but Open lacks the momentum of a live album or the structure of a thought-out project like David Crowder Band's A Collision. Despite many standout tracks, the overall experience tends to bleed together a bit with no clear theme to carry us through. The opening title track almost seems out of place, setting a different tone as a response to worship that challenges us to show love to others in God's name. Yet the album's remainder resorts to more familiar worship themes of praise, surrender, humility, and grace, with writing that too often recalls a more generic Matt Redman. There's certainly nothing wrong with that route, but the album should have opened with a more representative track while relying less on simplistic wording—there's a difference between straightforward and easy lyricism.
The songs all range from good to excellent on Open. It's just that some of them get lost in the journey, perhaps making this one of the rare cases where there's too much of a good thing—though if less is truly more here, the album can certainly be enjoyed in parts instead of the whole. Morant's talents with production and melody are stronger than his skills as a lyricist, but he's good enough in all things for us to lose sight that he's only 24 years old. Which all seems to indicate that Jason Morant is sure to improve upon an already excellent effort like this.