Josh Wilson’s “Carry Me” Album Review
Josh Wilson certainly knows how to hijack monotony. In a genre where many contemporary Christian music artists recycle hooks and regurgitate lines without any plagiaristic shame, Wilson knows how to pierce through boredom with his ingenuity. And he has done it two ways. First, instead of adopting the lyrically trite, he has chosen fresh and arresting images for his songs. Take his hit "Three Minute Song" as an example. Who would have thought of using the image of "trying to put an ocean in a cup" as a way of our inability to depict the greatness of God? In an attempt to show us the dangerous allure of wealth, who would have thought of writing a song in the form of a letter entitled "Dear Money?" Second, musically, Wilson is never a conformist either. Never satisfied to let his record sound like the thousands of Christian pop out there, his records have often been imbued with a different sound. Being a multi-instrumentalist, his brand of Christian pop has flourished with an extravaganza of acoustic woodwind sand string sounds. How often do we hear the sounds of the xylophone or the ukulele on a modern record? Continuing such a tradition of invigorating tunes creatively produced by Matt Bronleewe (Plumb, Jars of Clay and Chris Tomlin) is "Carry Me," Wilson's fourth Sparrow Records release.
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"Carry Me" is rightly touted as Wilson's most personal record. In the midst of crafting songs for this album, Wilson began experiencing severe chest and shoulder pain as well as difficulty breathing. Believing he was actually having a heart attack, Wilson was checked into an hospital. Though the results came back negative, this Dove Award Nominee began suffering from frantic attacks often waking up in the middle of the night. This led to cancelled performances. However, it was also during these times, Wilson crafted some of his most personal heart cries to God. Anyone who has ever had been to their wits' end would have their heartstrings pulled with the title cut "Carry Me" when Wilson pleas to the Almighty God: "From my sinking sand to your solid ground/The only way I'm ever gonna make it out/Is if you carry me, carry me, carry me now." Wrapped around a John Hiatt-folk-like snaky guitar shuffle is the equally moving spiritual warfare anthem "Pushing Back the Dark."
Every good song begins with a pair of keening eyes. And nothing can be further than such a truth than the ballad "I See God in You." "I See God in You" is easily Wilson's best ballad yet. A story song that was birthed via Wilson's piquant observation of his 94-year-old widowed neighbor and a special needs child. Though both characters have reasons to resent God for their infelicitous plights, but they did not. In fact, the 94-year-old widow has been rejoicing in her daily Bible readings since 1968. "I See God in You" is a testimonial song about these two individuals told with so much affection that you might want to keep your Kleenex close by. While on the rollicking hook-laden "Faith is Not a Feeling," Wilson challenges us not to doubt God's providence in moments when we don't "feel" his presence. Inspired by a near-death experience when a plane almost crashed, "Wake Me Up" finds a candid and confessional Wilson pleading for us to be alive to the things of God.
It is not unusual for contemporary Christian artists to sing about love between a man and a woman. On "Carry Me," Wilson has two horizontal love songs, namely, "What A Mystery" and "One Saved Soul." With its doo wop finger snapping tune "What a Mystery" marvels at love since the creation starting with Adam and Eve. While the ukulele and string-laced "One Safe Soul" is a simple folk-like love song that is ruminatively heartfelt. There is not a soporific moment on this record. Every song here is deftly crafted, each possessing individuality, character and heart. More importantly, these dozens of songs not just songs Wilson sings about. Rather, these are songs that he lived through; this is what places "Carry Me" a tad above most albums.
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