A welcome, if all-too-brief, nod back to his earliest work.
Where the Light Gets In
Artist: Jason Gray
Label: Centricity Music
Release Date: June 17, 2016
Duration: 13 tracks, 44:38
Saying that Minnesota native, Jason Gray’s, career took an upturn in the late summer of 2009 is like saying Eric Clapton is a pretty fair guitar player or Steven Curtis Chapman may have one or two Dove awards tucked away in his attic. Indeed, having labored in indie-based semi-obscurity for eight years, and roughly half as many more as a major-label type, Gray’s first four records came and went without much hoopla from the music-buying and radio-listening public at large – all of which helped him earn his label as Christian Music’s best-kept secret. But, as just about everyone who’s listened to Christian pop music at some point during the last six-plus years knows, his unknown designation all but vanished when he dropped his hugely acclaimed, and just as commercially successful, second Centricity project, Everything Sad Is Coming Untrue, just before the turn of the current decade.
But, even as his early as the follow-up record, 2011’s A Way to See in the Dark, Gray began to move away from his distinctive, and endearingly quirky, folk-pop inclinations to explore noticeably more radio-friendly fare; a trend that remained unabated, if not even more pronounced, on his most recent offering, 2014’s Love Will Have the Final Word. Those who took a shine to his last two albums will undoubtedly be chuffed when they explore the lion’s share the Light outing. The opening cut, “Learning,” is an loping, irresistibly cheerful, clap-along ditty on the order of Dark’s “Good to Be Alive” or “With Every Act of Love,” from Love. And follow-on tracks like “I Will Rise Again” and “More Yours” look poised to do big business on the Inspirational Pop Top 40 and the congregationally-based setting.
In comparison to these pleasant, albeit neither unique nor remarkable, entries which populate the better part of the release, the occasional true diamond does bubble to the surface ever so often. The austere two-note intro to the sparse, but mesmerizing, “The Wound Is Where the Light Gets In” is the perfect no-frills accompaniment to its poignant and brilliant treatise on brokenness (Tumbling like an avalanche/ To the bottom where I lay/ Now with the taste of blood and twist of bone/ My healing could begin). The equally imposing “Learning to be Found” finds Gray stripping back a bit of his former radio-ready varnish applying a welcome coat of grit to his gut-level-honest look at humanity’s dependence on Divine assistance. And “Death without a Funeral,” is as impressive a simple, organic acoustic piece as any Gray has ever put to tape.
In the end analysis, like the pair of efforts that preceded it, Where the Light Gets In is neither unappealing nor completely without merit. That said, despite the fact that it is arguably similar enough to the work of Gray’s contemporaries to render a second listen unnecessary, it is still certainly enjoyable enough taken on its own merit, and, to its credit, slots in just a tad above the average work from Gray’s peers. Still, the presence of songs like “Learning to be Found” and Wound” only serves to highlight the more run-of-the-mill aesthetic of the material which surrounds them. Fans of the last few albums will no doubt scoop up the new record without hesitation. Those hoping for a return to the more unique textures of Gray’s indie offerings and inaugural two Centricity works will have to wait at least a little longer for that to come true.