Creative Village: Lord of All
Village Church Music
Review by Luke Woodhouse
An encouraging trend in recent years is church music teams writing and recording their own congregational songs and releasing them for the blessing of the wider Christian community. The new album Lord of All, by the team at Village Church in Annandale is another example. Sign up now for more reviews about how Christians are engaging with culture.
Full of creative arrangements, refreshing harmonic choices and evocative sonic textures, the songs are honest about the human condition without Christ, realistic about life with Christ and unambiguous about the certain hope of his return.
Opening with the gritty and raw title track, which combines rock rhythms with stark strumming of the electric guitar, “Lord of All” is lyrically tenacious. Within the first 30 seconds, the rescue mission of God is unashamedly front and centre, followed by bare statements of truth like “We are sick and in need of cure”. In contrast, the following track “Only His Life” focuses on the liberating forgiveness won for us in Christ. It has a driving-on-the-open-road feel, with acoustic guitars and light drum groove pushing the song forward, and electric guitars soaring in the background.
“Love Unknown”, the third track, is different again, beginning with a naked, sparse grand piano, followed by a hip-hop-esque acoustic drum groove. It has a modern, almost cinematic vibe, yet when the vocals begin, you realise that despite the modern feel the lyrics (a rewrite of “My Song is Love Unknown”) are more than 300 years old. The sparsest song is “A Gathering Prayer”, opening with a solo trumpet/horn, then transitioning (musically) to a Ryan Adams-style ballad. Lyrically, it is a prayer for God to still our hearts before we hear his word, followed by a prayer for unity and faithfulness in response to hearing his word.
“Your Love” is a catchy treat for fans of the late Johnny Cash. Musically the song evokes joy and anticipation, running forward towards the prize, although from my first few listens I wonder whether the music is the best fit for the confessional nature of the lyrics. “Lonely Man” starts with a cosmic reflection on the profundity of God’s wisdom and subsequent care for us. The chorus raises the searching question of how the God of the universe would not only come to us, but go on to die a lonely man.
“Oh Blessed Trinity” is a song of adoration, exploring the wonder of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. The second verse makes it clear that God didn’t need us to make his love complete and the refrain in the chorus reinforces this wonder: “How can it be that we share in this divine and perfect glory?” “Pastures and Valleys” is a new take on Psalm 23, starting with a simple finger picking folk feel and basic accompaniment. To me, the feel of this song is just right. Psalm 23 is a psalm of hope in the context of a world in darkness. Musically the song works because it keeps us moving, yet in a restrained way. I also loved how more voices are introduced towards the end, reminding us that this is not just a song for the individual but for the people of God in Christ.
“Chase the Wind”is a prayer that we would cast all our burdens and anxiety on God, and that our lives will no longer be “Chasing after the wind” (like the author of Ecclesiastes suggests). The album closes with “Farther Up, Farther In” – another folk ballad, calling us to look forward to the future for God’s people. It is a prayer for us to live in light of that final day.
The producers of the album have gathered a collection of songs that no doubt work in their local church setting, yet they have not been constrained creatively by a wider congregational purpose.
It is musically diverse, as well as refreshing in the unashamed confessional nature of the lyrics – especially in the first half. While there are a lot of words and lyrical content and it is hard to absorb everything on first listen, the beauty of a 40-odd minute album, compared to the equivalent length sermon, is that it is designed to reward multiple listens.