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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Over and Underneath

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 May
Over and Underneath
Sounds like … an unlikely AC-friendly pop/rock hybrid of MercyMe, Jars of Clay, and Switchfoot, with some additional similarities to Rush of Fools, Snow Patrol, and Paul ColmanAt a glance … though there's nothing particularly new or innovative about their sound or songwriting, Tenth Avenue North does enough on their debut to keep the music and lyrics thoughtful and engagingTrack Listing Love Is Here Lift Us Up to Fall By Your Side Let It Go Break Me Down Hold My Heart Times Beloved You Are Satisfy Hallelujah

Every year, there's always a new band in Christian music that seem to receive that extra publicity push above the others: NeedToBreathe, Rush of Fools, and now Tenth Avenue North. Why the buzz? Their story is a familiar one, starting out as a worship band in West Palm Beach, Florida before deciding to move on to something bigger.

If you've heard the radio single "Love Is Here," you already know that it's not saying anything much that's new by inviting listeners to "come to the water" to experience the immediacy of Christ's love. Musically, it's not very unique either, but admittedly well-made Christian adult contemporary that's extremely marketable to today's Christian radio climate. Hence why the single is performing well, and the same holds true for the rest of Over and Underneath.

If you can envision it, Tenth Avenue North has an unlikely sound hovering between the most accessible qualities of MercyMe, Jars of Clay, and the softer side of Switchfoot. Written as Christ's wedding vows to the church, "Beloved" plays like Jars' more AC-friendly material, while the acoustic-based "Times" is as contemplative as Jon Foreman's solo EPs, and the prayerful rocker "Satisfy" could be pass as one of Switchfoot's pop anthems—all delivered with a pleasant AC-friendly production sheen that MercyMe would be perfectly comfortable with. Lead singer Mike Donehey even vocally resembles both Foreman ("By Your Side" in particular) and Dan Haseltine (the start of "Hold My Heart").

Though you can't call Tenth Avenue North innovative or different, there's just enough texture to their sound and substance to their songwriting to help them rise above the routine. Simple and straightforward as the majority of the lyrics are, Donehey brings intelligence to them through his phrasing and perspectives. "By Your Side," for example, was written from Christ's point-of-view, asking us why we're reluctant to accept his comfort: "Why are you looking for love?/Why are you still searching as if I'm not enough?/To where will you go child?/To where will you run?" With "Hold My Heart," he considers how the Creator of the universe is could possibly be concerned with our personal needs, and "Times" poignantly reflects on God's love permeating our lives through all circumstances.

This band may not have a uniquely identifiable sound, but they do fit today's Christian pop format very well. And while the songs aren't deep or poetic, they're thoughtful enough expressions to warrant attention. Hard to say whether or not Tenth Avenue North is truly the next big thing in Christian music, but they're at least off to a good start in 2008 with this well-crafted debut.

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