The leadoff song on any CD should hook the listener, and Traveling Light doesn't disappoint. The title track sets a laid-back tone that fits the album's theme of casting our burdens on the Lord. Joel Hanson takes the lead on vocals and delivers a fine performance, but the track is a great example of how supporting vocals can bring an added dimension to an otherwise straightforward recording. Sara Groves provides just the right backing, adding to the song's sing-along quality.
As strong as the first track is, Amy Grant's unassuming Gentle Shepherd, the second song on Traveling Light, elevates the entire record. Grant's recent output, including her duet with Fernando Ortega on the latter's Storm, embraces the grace of God with a maturity and peace Grant didn't bring to her earlier recordings, as enjoyable as they were. The spare accompaniment on Shepherd gives Grant no place to hide, and she rises to the occasion, singing with assurance and delicacy.
Mountain of God, sung by Mac Powell and Ashley Cleveland, and Tait's Following Me give the CD an edge it would otherwise lack.
Although both Powell and Cleveland are given equal billing in the marketing materials for Traveling Light, Mountain of God is Powell's show, with the amazing Cleveland relegated mostly to back-up vocals. Cleveland fans, starved for new product, would be better served by tracking down her just-released Second Skin. On the other hand, Powell fans will want to seek out Traveling Light.
Russ Taff, another gutsy Christian voice, delivers Let It Flow, but the song is done in by its repetitious chorus. Taff, a great singer, hasn't been able to find the right musical match for his voice since the wonderful Under Their Influence, Volume 1. Here's hoping for a second volume soon.
Other tracks, in an effort to express the peace of God, are a bit too restful: I Will Not Fear, Rest in Me and Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us, back-loaded into the album's second half, stretch the album's thematic emphasis a bit too far.
Still, Traveling Light, the first recording from the newly formed Creative Trust Workshop, has its share of highlights. The Christian music industry has its own share of burdens to cast off -- not the least of which are predictability, and the tendency to follow rather than set cultural trends. Traveling Light and CTW should be commended for bucking those trends and producing an album that, although uneven, gives listeners something to sink their teeth into, and hope for even more thoughtful projects down the road.