REVIEW OF PLUMB’S “NEED YOU NOW” ALBUM
Sometimes God speaks through some of the most unexpected people. Ask Tiffany Arbuckle Lee aka Plumb. Way back in the year 2000, Plumb was at the cusp of leaving her singing career after being haggard by the politics of the industry. Just as Plumb sang her swan song at her farewell concert, a girl gave her note detailing how the song "Damaged" had rescued her from despair and how she had hoped that Plumb would continue to use her music as a vessel of God's healing. Taking this as an ominous sign from God, Plumb realized that her life's mission had yet to be complete. So, she signed with the esteemed Curb Records in 2003 and has so far blessed us with three studio albums and a compilation collection. More importantly, Plumb has a unique way of ministering God's healing to troubled souls especially teenagers suffering from abuse or shattered self-images with songs such as "Boys Don't Cry," "Nice, Naïve and Beautiful," "Cut," "Real" and "God-Shaped Hole." "Need You Now," Plumb's fourth studio album under the Curb imprint, will no doubt continue to advance such a Godly ministry with its lyrically poignant songs addressing issues of faith in the plight of our brokenness. Hard to imagine, though is that "Need You Now" is Plumb's first album of all new material since 2007's "Blink." While "Blink" was a sonic detour into heavy ballads and lullabies, "Need You Now" is a return to her signature form of electronic rock/pop. Plumb again joins Jars of Clay's guitarist Matt Bronleewe in crafting most of the tunes with the occasional scribal input from Ben Glover, Joy Williams and Jars of Clay front man Dan Haseltine.
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The songs of Plumb have always straddled between the fine line between human love and divine love. Such ambiguity has certainly given her the advantageous edge of taking her songs beyond the Contemporary Christian genre. To date, three of Plumb's songs ("In My Arms," "Hang O" and "Drifting") have even climbed up to the upper echelon of Billboard's Dance charts. And her 2003 hit "Real" even made quite a splash in the UK secular chart. The same is said of the majority of the tracks here on "Need You Now." Though God is never mentioned, album opener "Invisible" could be read as a desperate cry for a lover's attention or God's redemption. A brassy and soulful tune, "Invisible" calls to mind Adele's "Skyfall" where the majestic clamour of orchestra and the ethereal swirling of electronica meet. "Drifting," the album's debut single, is more a mainline rock ballad with Jars of Clay's Dan Haseltine helping build to the song's stratospheric climax. While songs like the cutesy "Chocolate and Ice Cream" and "One Drop" are more overtly romantic flurries with Plumb adopting some of Colbie Caillat-inspired sparkling Californian electronic bells and syncopated beats.
Months before the release of this album, Plumb has tweeted that this release was supposed to be titled "Faster than a Bullet" (a phrase taken from the song "At Arm's Length"). However, the recent tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School have rendered such a titular inappropriate. Feeling overwhelmed by the whole catastrophe, Plumb has dedicated the album's second single "Need You Now" to the family and friends of the victims. The title cut "Need You Now" is the nerve center of this record. It is also one of Plumb best compositions to date: passionately delivered over a mid-tempo string-laden ballad, this is also Plumb most explicit cry to God mentioning Him not with a mere pronoun but by name. "Unlovable" is the other track that is more religiously explicit-here Plumb addresses the hypocritical nature of some churches who have tasted God's grace but yet thrifty in extending it to others. While "Say Your Name" is an anthemic cry to God; it is wistfully built up by a cacophony of strings, a tremulous drum beats and a rush of synthesizers.
"At Arm's Length" sounds like words lifted out of the book of Hosea where God is pictured as a love sick paramour desperately calling us to be reconciled to Him. But here also lies the problem with this album: though it is true and right to speak of God as our forlorn lover waiting for us and the Bible is replete with such examples. But God on the other hand is holy; in an album where God is spoken of in the guise of the generic "he," it's hard to convey that in such rhetoric. Hence, what is missing from "Need You Now" is that the glorious "otherness" of God sometimes is compromised over our human longings. Also, when Plumb does mention God by name (as in the title cut) there is such power, such sweetness, such comfort that it really behooves us why God and Jesus are not mentioned more often. Let's just wish with the next album Plumb will let Jesus out of the closet a tad more.
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