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Great God Who Saves
Artist: Laura Story
Label: INO Records
Time: 10 tracks / 38:45
Don’t let the title and the cover art discourage you from checking out this CD.
Please don’t think I’m a bad guy – I simply don’t like the so-called ‘Praise and Worship’ genre. I have a lot of friends that do, in fact, ‘praise,’ and have even been known to worship – and I’ve been known to do that myself from time to time (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It’s just that praise and worship used to be something that crept up on you when you least expected it, and you’d suddenly find yourself swallowed up with a sense of love, awe and joy about your God. What used to be an experience as intimate and personal as making love has now become a category – a label that you stamp on a product that will guarantee a certain amount of CD sales at Christian bookstores? What started out as an experience – visceral and real – has become a style, usually vapid and artless.
What a delightful surprise, then, to hear Laura Story’s Great God Who Saves - an album that will no-doubt be relegated to a genre that should not exist (since any musical style, including rock, can inspire praise and worship), and will cause many to assume that this is just another generic ‘worship team’ project. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Laura Story is a song writer who doesn’t take the easy way out. Her songs are well structured pieces, combining the economy and ‘tools’ of a pop song with the artistry and sensitivity of a good folk song. Much like label-mate, Sara Groves, Laura Story writes songs that have musical integrity and a sense of the poetic in the lyrics – ironically, a quality usually missing on so many scripture-based songs. Combining piano, bass, keyboards and acoustic guitar with the warm sound of real drums and percussion, Story writes insightful songs using scriptural themes, but with an awareness of human foibles. Story’s voice is a comfortable, non-threatening instrument that is easy to listen and relate to – she sings with a sincerity and down-to-earth quality that is a welcome departure from so much of the dramatic, sappy, generic and over-the-top vocals that we often get from the Praise and Worship genre. Make no mistake – this is a project that clearly points to God, and has all of the types of titles you’d expect, but the worshipful feeling of this album is totally genuine and, yes, earthy – as it ought to be. Laura always keeps her feet on the ground in these songs, although her eyes are looking up.
The closest this project comes to being overtly commercial is the more fully produced “Think of You,” which is the penultimate track on the album, and combines the best of Laura’s use of sophisticated but comfortable chord structures, memorable melodies and appropriately optimistic lyrics. The closing track, “Perfect Peace,” immediately goes back to the basics, featuring piano and cello in back of Story’s vocals (which occasionally recall an early Amy Grant) singing a simply mounted and beautifully rendered ending to an album that is both inspirational and artistically satisfying. _Great God Who Saves_ is a project with too much joy, insight and art to be relegated to any musical ghetto – this is the work of an artist, specifically Christian, with a soul that speaks eloquently to the spirit and celebrates creativity.
There’s no rock and roll here, but neither is there any mundane, unison generic sing-a-long. Laura Story has produced a collection of songs that are good to listen to, to reflect on: songs to enter into with your soul and spirit. You might even find yourself praising and/or worshiping …not that there’s anything wrong with that.
By Bert Saraco