Hymn-meister Townend blends the everyday with eternity in his latest batch of organic, Celtic-flavoured songs.

Label: Integrity
Time: 12 Tracks / 53 mins

Along with Keith and Kristyn Getty, Townend is part of probably the strongest hymn-writing team of the last decade or three, due to their content-rich lyrics and Celtic edged tunes.

Often they will share songs, Townend’s versions rootsy, the Gettys’ gleaming with polish. The latter (interview here) have just released arguably the best album of their career, and Townend continues to mix up his organic feel with a recent upping of production (“How Good it is to Sing,” for example, has a fresh and spacious sound and manages to fit both categories). That said, “I Will Wait for You” sounds like a demo here and is better suited to the Gettys’ wall of sound.

The heart of this album is the title track and the emotional “Keep You Here,” recorded with his late brother and inspired by his faith lived out in the shadow of terminal cancer. That experience inevitably colours other songs and earths them in real-life, something too rarely found in Christian music in its current state.

So it is much richer for this, and aided by “I am Here for You,” a song based around his daughter Emma’s mental health. Emma sings on a few tracks and her voice is a welcome complement to Townend himself, whose vocals often sound rather prosaic.

Like Getty, Townend seems happier to relax into instrumental interludes now. For “May the Peoples Praise You,” he has borrowed some bass from the Queen/Bowie song “Under Pressure” too.

Where I am less impressed is that tunes can often sound like they revisit other songs from his catalogue. The two opening songs are in that bracket, and later songs like “Lead On, Lead On” and “For the Cause” also sound pretty anonymous. Although “Still, my Soul be Still” sounds like I have heard it before, it also has a classic melody that makes it succeed.

Final track “Christ be with Me” should have been left off, though, as it is a dirge that leaves a sour taste.

Those who have several releases by Townend, Redman and co. in their collection are likely to love this, but some tracks will go down better than others.

Derek Walker