My Rating: Must Listen! [4.9 / 5]
Veteran powerhouse group Casting Crowns is set to release their latest album, Only Jesus, this Friday the 16th. Headed by lead vocalist and youth pastor Mark Hall, the group has been a stable and reliable sound, bringing catchy, relevant, and beautiful worship into our homes, churches and worlds for 15+ years. Their contributions thus far have garnered well-deserved success, evident by their staggering 11 million albums sold and their countless GRAMMY, American Music Award, Billboard Music Award, and GMA Dove Award accolades. Without surprise, Only Jesus builds another rung on the ladder, and fans will be delighted. The 12 track album is comprised of a collection of worship tunes that hold true to Crowns’ signature style and affirm that God is the reason and focus for all they do. Hall shares, “The theme that continued to come up while working on these new songs was that I am not the point - it is not about me, it is about pointing to Him. God is already at work in our lives, and He has a plan that He places us in so that others can know Him. We are here to show the way to God by how we live, how we react to difficult situations, how we handle trials and troubled relationships. Our hope is that through these songs, you can see what it looks like when Jesus is our only source, our only solution and we are pointing to only Jesus.”
Excitement is already buzzing surrounding the release of the title track as the album’s debut single. It achieved Top 15 on all AC radio charts in a mere month and has 3.5 million streams and counting. For those who haven’t heard this song yet, it’s a fantastic and gripping hit. Simplified, repetitive accompaniment drives in the introduction, taking a backseat when Hall enters for the first verse. He quickly gets to the point and commands your attention by exploding in praise and ascending notes with the first chorus. A beautiful transitional bridge builds momentum, emotion and volume, claiming “Jesus is the only name to remember,” before rolling into another powerful chorus. The lyrics of this song expand on the mission of this album, to ensure every moment of our life reflects and leads to Jesus rather than ourselves.
Only Jesus provides relatable and attainable worship. In “Nobody,” Hall collaborates with popular CCM artist Matthew West in a smooth combination of both musicians’ styles. Percussion and a simple guitar riff accompany Hall on the first verse and chorus, West on the second verse, and bandmate vocals on the bridge in a song that emphasizes our insignificance compared to God’s greatness. “Even When You’re Running” uses fun, upbeat banjo that instrumentally evokes the escape alluded by the title. Enticing and attention-grabbing, the song reassures us His presence and love are ever present and that He will find us no matter where we are in life. Led by bandmate vocalists, “The Change In Me” is an introspective and moving song of praise that uses piano, strings and vocals that range from a vulnerable to triumphant declaration that God leads us.
Perfectly blended harmony and unique instrumentation aside, Crowns also thrives by using lyrics to skillfully tackle raw, honest, and sometimes uncomfortable realities. For long time fans, “Can Anybody Hear Her” and “If We Are the Body,” may come to mind, full of self-challenging calls of action and humility. Using an easy tempo, piano chords and a phrase of ascending notes, “One Awkward Moment” begins by telling the story of a young girl who has struggled through life, desperately needing a spiritual life line that never comes. Hall urges listeners to pause amidst life’s urgency and take that step of faith out on the water, though it may be uncomfortable, to extend an invitation or a hand to others. God places us in positions where we can share His word to save someone’s life and personally see the gospel come alive, if we choose to overcome our insecurity or discomfort of one moment. With similar honesty is “Start Right Here,” a song that looks at the hypocrisy of some modern day churches and Christians, where we sometimes focus on Sunday morning coffee and headlining pastors rather than the ugly truth. Rolling banjo and soft hits on the beat introduce Hall, as he points out that we set our sights on international mission and world peace, but at the same time aren’t personally willing to find common ground with our neighbors. The song asks us to solve the world’s problems by constantly striving daily to make ourselves an image of God’s goodness, rather than judging others.
Unsurprisingly, Only Jesus is another fantastic release in Casting Crowns’ legendary repertoire. The band’s sustained presence and talent in the music world are a blessing and comfort. They continue to release relatable and interesting worship music, retaining their signature sound and style while also adapting to the passing years and remaining relevant. Each new release inspires excitement along with a sense of home and familiarity for all who have identified with their music for the past 15 years. Crowns’ worship continues to speak truth throughout the changing chapters of our lives and makes God attainable to all walks of life. Only Jesus is a release you definitely don’t want to miss.