Monday, March 24, 2008

New Music: Laura Story Great God Who Saves

Laura StoryThis past Tuesday saw the release of Laura Story's new album, Great God Who Saves. Since most of you have probably never heard her name before, let me give you some introductions. Laura Story originally wanted to conduct music before falling prey to the lure of writing/singing. She was with the band Silers Bald for most of a decade before setting off on her own. She's worked with artists like Andrew Peterson and written and co-written several familiar songs. Oh, yeah, she wrote that song "Indescribable" that Chris Tomlin sings. See, you do know her, don't ya?

Great God Who Saves finds Story on her label debut with INO Records. Her music is a worshipful offering, in the vein of what one could expect from Twila Paris. The two most easily recognizable songs on the album are the aforementioned "Indescribable" and a cover of Hillsong's "Mighty to Save", both of which she makes her own. The album shows a light production touch (from Ed Cash, who produces Tomlin's music) and that is a good thing. Where this album succeeds best at is presenting heartfelt worship that is honest and sincere - something I find sorely lacking in much of the worship music genre. In the case of "Indescribable", you get a song that sounds like how she wrote it - a prayerful expression of a woman driving through the mountains, beholding the majesty of God's creation, and praising God for those things. In many ways, I find this better than Tomlin's version which popularized the song.

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In addition to the sincerity that comes across in the music, Story's voice is enjoyable to listen to and the music is beautiful. Where the album fails, though, is in the overall lack of charisma that comes across in the music. In listening to the album, this was my biggest disappointment; and then I watched the press video I received with the album and I really began to wonder. In the video (seen below from INO's YouTube channel) you find Story to be quite charismatic, with a big smile that draws you in to her good mood. I wish that charm had come across more in the album.

 Laura Story Great God Who SavesI've mentioned before that I am not a big fan of the overall praise and worship genre, but personally enjoy good music that is worshipful. In speaking about an album like Great God Who Saves, I try to separate it from the genre and look at it on its own merits. When I ask myself if it succeeds in its intended goal (drawing people into worship), I have to answer that it does; at least for me, it does. Not every song is a winner, but I find myself wanting to sing along with songs like "Mighty to Save", "Bless the Lord", and titular "Great God Who Saves". One could argue that much of Story's lyrics are too complex for easy singing in a group setting, being more suited for listening. Story would say the same, herself, never expecting a song like "Indescribable" to become popular in congregations everywhere for that very reason. More often than not, her lyrics come across as a modern rewriting of the Psalms - not a far stretch from the truth in many cases.

Overall, I find the album an enjoyable listen and good worship experience, though not one that will occupy my CD player like an military dictator. (Did I just say that? Uh, yep.) While wishing for more charisma in the album, I do enjoy the bare-bones production approach that allowed Story's sincerity to shine through. If you want to hear more, you can watch three teaching videos for Mighty to Save, Great God Who Saves, and Indescribable. You can also watch a video of Story talking about her husband, Martin, and the struggle to make this album as he battled a life-threatening brain tumor.

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