Sometime in 2001, I dipped my foot into the waters of contemporary Christian music with 2 CDs; Jump5’s self-titled debut and Jars of Clay’s The Eleventh Hour. However, it wasn’t until the summer of 2008 that I fell headfirst into crazy music fandom. Who and what pushed me in? The who was God, via Casting Crowns. The what was their 3rd album, The Altar and the Door. From then on, my mad rush into Christian music fandom lead me to inspiration for lyrics, closeness to God, online friendships, and Christian Music Review. That's right......Mark and company, you're the reason I'm even writing this. (On a "darker" note, you're also the root of my Internet addiction!) Anyhoo, back to giving a little back.......Until the Whole World Hears is a worship effort that is beautiful lyrically and musically.
What you won't find on UTWWH is a rebuke song like those that Crowns has become famous for. Instead, the album is tinged with humility; every song that speaks of backsliding uses "I" and "we" instead of "they" and "you". How honest is that? Even the title single is more of an anthem than a criticism. The song begins as a plea to Jesus asking for the ability to be like Him and then rallies others to the same cause. Trivia- that's Mark's home church (Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church in Georgia) joining in the song near the end. This album also marks Crowns’s first project without their former drummer, Andy Williams, famous for being bald, interestingly replaced this past February by Brian Scoggins, a red head Lucy Ricardo would envy the color of if not the afro style.
"Always Enough" is a sufficiency song borne from the death of a member of Mark's congregation who was a soldier. It's not the first tragedy that's spawned a lyric, as long time Crowns fans will recall "Praise You In This Storm". "At Your Feet", penned by Hall and Jason Ingram, is a beautiful song of surrender and satisfaction at the feet of Jesus. Listen closely; it's also Juan and Hector's album singing debuts. (Hi guys!) The desperate cries of "If We've Ever Needed You" entreat God in a time of terrible crisis to be with us more than ever. It's a song that no doubt finds its inspiration in the moral decay of the world at large, and seems to be the theme of the Slow Faders Anonymous.
One of my favorite songs on this album is "Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)" The chorus (Living, He loved me/Dying, He saved me/Buried, He carried my sins far away/Rising, He justified freely forever/One day He’s coming/Oh glorious day, oh glorious day) is one of the best ways I've ever heard the life of Jesus summarized. "To Know You" describes all the new feelings and longings a believer will have as a result of knowing Jesus. Among them is the neverending effect of wanting to be ever closer. "Joyful, Joyful" has WOW Hymns written all over it; it's a little faster tempo than you'd expect. "Mercy" is a very simply arranged song that's mostly Megan with a little Mark near the end, and "Blessed Redeemer" is unique in that Melodee contributes the vocals. They're very well done, and not as some may believe, the token SPCMH songs (Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Mark Hall)
I was pleasantly surprised to find not one but two rockier songs on this album. "Holy One" and "Shadow Of Your Wings" would be great songs for the next edition of Dance Praise. I had a hard time not jumping out of my computer chair. Mark Hall really excels at faster songs; but then, he's just one of those guys who can sing at any tempo and ace it. A less than pleasant surprise? "Jesus Hold Me Now" is actually a rework of their earlier song from Lifesong, "Prodigal" with a new chorus that makes it clear that the person being appealed to is Jesus, not the earthly father of the singer. I'm sure there's a good and Godly explanation for why they decided to do this, and someday when we meet in heaven I'll have to take this back, but I was disappointed.
Think what you like about Casting Crowns. Be a CCM basher if you want to. I just can't help finding something to like in every project they do. The genuine Christ-like love and the raw honesty they display in their words AND actions are what keep me interested.
by Laura Chambers