Review Rating: Add It To My Playlist! [4.0/5]
Singer/songwriter John Tibbs will be releasing his new EP, Heartland, on October 20th. The EP includes five studio-recorded tracks and three “Living Room Sessions” tracks. Tibbs has put all of himself in this EP, and fans of Tibbs will be excited to hear that he considers Heartland to be his “best music yet.”
The title track, "Heartland", has been released as a single and is receiving lots of favorable attention already. The lyrics express a yearning for the rest, contentment, and joy found in the presence of God – the heartland. The drums pick up as Tibbs sings, “I wanna dance in the river running with grace that’s never-ending. And oh, I wanna rest in the shadow of the tree that won forgiveness. And oh, I wanna be found in the heartland.” There isn’t a lot of instrumentation in the song, and parts of it feels lacking a bit musically. However, Tibbs’s lyrics, filled with honest yearning, make the song powerful and heartfelt. Tibbs describes it as a song of hope saying, “This song is a response to the strife I see every day and a reminder to myself to carry the love and kindness of God wherever I go.”
The inspiration for “Shepherd” came from the desire for hope and peace that Tibbs found within himself in the midst of political strife, which Tibbs says caused his faith to be “shredded apart and reconstructed over and over again.” Many of the lyrics come directly from the words of David in Psalm 23, scripture which Tibbs says has been a “cornerstone throughout this process” of wrestling with his faith. This song appears on the album both as a studio recording, and as a more acoustic “Living Room Sessions” recording.
“Won’t Let Me Go” is one of the more upbeat songs on the EP. It is a celebration of God’s promise to “stand by [us]” so that we “never walk alone.” The song has an 80’s sound to it produced by the synth and drums that fill the chorus. The song is a comforting reminder of God’s constancy, but the unwavering drum beat and repetitive lyrics make it feel a little too long and dynamically lacking. The “Living Room Sessions” version, in its raw, stripped-down sound, feels more naturally flowing with more pronounced dynamics.
Throughout the album, it is extremely evident that John Tibbs put his heart into every song. The lyrics are deep, vulnerable, and honest. The songs are simple instrumentally, which at times, seems to leave the song feeling empty or lacking, but at other times, accompanies and accentuates the lyrics. Tibbs expressed his personal desire for the album saying, “I hope that when you hear this record and listen to these songs, you hear my heart. “Because I mean every last bit of it.” This heartfelt desire is certainly evident and will be easily appreciated as listeners make their way through the album.