Road To Redemption
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
Vocal group River has been around for more than 11 years, but Road to Redemption (their eighth album) is their first project to be distributed on a record label. If you're not familiar with their music, River basically sounds like Phillips Craig and Dean, only a little more aggressive. They even share a similar heart for ministry, primarily touring churches across the country to lead worship and share the message of the Gospel.
The vocal talents of Kurt Linn, Paul Marino, and Phil Reesnes are undeniably excellent, and they write their own songs. The songs may not be groundbreaking in vision, but they are as good anything else in the Inspirational/Christian adult contemporary market. The title track has a pleasant Beatle-esque melody and production to it, and "The Grace of God" has a beautiful simplicity in its message—that we need to learn what our focus needs to be over our lifetime. But for every song of power and beauty on Road to Redemption, there's at least one song that feels like a rehash of something done before. Up-tempo songs like "Extraordinary," "Everything," and "These Are the Things," are examples of the usual Christian music fluff that far too many artists are writing. It would seem that River isn't aspiring to reach any sort of artistic innovation or greatness, but perhaps that's their point.
Allow me to switch hats from music critic to editorial writer. In my humble opinion, River is a perfect example of how to get started and maintain perspective in the Christian music business. There are so many aspiring Christian artists who are primarily focused on moving to Nashville and striking it big—"I'm going to be the next Amy Grant or Jars of Clay!" But River is a group of guys who simply want to use their musical talents to share the Gospel with anyone who will listen, regardless of where it takes them. They have chosen to place ministry above celebrity status and success, as evidenced by their commitment to release recordings independently and to exclusively tour churches for so long. They easily could have been signed to a small Christian label years ago. And how many groups do you know that have a board of directors to advise them in business and spiritual matters? In other words, they've demonstrated that one doesn't need a major label contract or a move to Nashville to be an effective Christian artist. There's a genuine quality to the music ministry of River. They're pro-active in that they put their talents and heart for ministry into action, but they've left the measure of their success in God's hands.
River may not be musically original or innovative, and they may well never reach the success of Phillips Craig and Dean or 4Him. That's okay, because I don't think it's River's goal to be the best Christian vocal group in the business, but rather to be the best vocal group that River can be. Their ministry continues to flourish as they reach people through the church who are looking for the truth of the Gospel proclaimed through beautifully performed music.