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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Warren Barfield

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Aug
Warren Barfield
Sounds like … acoustic pop that strongly resembles Steven Curtis Chapman, with a little bit of Scott Krippayne, Wes King, Bebo Norman, and John MayerAt a Glance … Warren may not be particularly original, but he still excels as a complete singer, songwriter, and guitarist

As the premiere artist on the relatively new Creative Trust Workshop label, Warren Barfield is one of this year's most eagerly anticipated and heavily hyped new artists in Christian music. The 24-year-old North Carolina native is awed and humbled by the opportunity, having long hoped to become a recording artist since first playing the guitar at the age of eight. Born into a very musical family that assisted in leading worship at church every week (Warren's father is a Pentecostal preacher), Warren developed his solo career between the ages of 16 and 23 by tried-and-true grassroots touring, playing for youth groups and worship events around the country. After recording two independent projects and gradually working his way into the Christian music scene, Warren was finally signed by CTW to record his self-titled debut.

Now, before we continue, there are three words that are inescapable when describing Warren's sound: Steven Curtis Chapman. The comparison is natural and apparent immediately, even before learning that Warren was first turned on to Christian music at age 16 through Steven's classic Great Adventure album, and that the great Brown Bannister (longtime producer of Steven's music) helmed 60 percent of the album's tracks. Mark Hammond (Nichole Nordeman, Jump5) oversees the other four songs. If there's another artist who leaps to mind after one listen, it's Scott Krippayne. Warren got his big break by opening for Scott on tour in early 2002 and still remains good friends with the pop artist. The influences are clear. Keep those two artists in mind, throw in a little bit of John Mayer and Wes King, and you've got a good idea of what to expect.

It's one thing to say an artist sounds similar to Steven Curtis Chapman, and another matter entirely to say someone is every bit as good as Steven Curtis Chapman. Warren's done the time and worked his way up, logging the miles and playing the small venues to hone his skills, writing songs for eleven years, and it shows. His voice is so strong he barely needs a microphone, and it's certainly no simple feat to play the complex rhythm guitar chords of the longtime Dove award winner.

Now that Steven is in his early 40s, he'll probably release less music beginning sometime in the next ten years. Warren would make a fine successor to Steven's legacy. You can hear it most clearly in a song about carrying grudges and forgiveness, called "Pictures of the Past," especially in the guitar riff, Warren's vocal stylings, and the enjoyably self-deprecating lyrics: "I've got one of those brains that can't remember where I set my keys/Oh, but I could recite every hurtful word ever spoken to me."

A lot of Steven Curtis Chapman can also be heard in "My Heart Goes Out" and "Beautiful Broken World." There's also the requisite romantic ballad "10 Hours" (written for Warren's wife Megan), the equally sweet "Whisper to Me" (written as a prayer request for his ailing father years ago), and the soft and prayerful "Somewhere Tonight."

More compelling is "Mistaken," an interesting way to express a desire to reflect the light of Christ to others, inspired by Mike Yaconelli's Messy Spirituality: "The more and more I disappear, the more and more He becomes clear … I wanna be mistaken for Jesus." Warren offers the familiar message of Romans 3:23 in "Grace," though he does so by using an example of a hypocritical church deacon, which is perhaps a little bold or surprising coming from a pastor's kid. "You Inspire Me" is yet another of those "seeing God in creation" songs that have been done to death, though it is well written. Similarly, the infectious "Soak It Up" reminds us to take time to stop and smell the roses.

There is a growing segment of Christian music listeners who feel Steven Curtis Chapman's music has grown more formulaic and predictable with time. I happen to believe the opposite, but if you count yourself one of them, Warren Barfield will probably infuriate you. He's not particularly original and is only unique in the sense that all songwriters have their own perspective to offer. It's Warren's talent and his extremely charming stage presence that set him apart. This guy's the real deal—the boy from your local church hitting the big time. As familiar as Warren Barfield's sound is, perhaps because of it, he seems destined to break big on Christian AC radio.