Both musically and lyrically, this release sums up intimate worship. I found myself listening to most of this with my eyes closed.

Label:     7Core Records
Time:     11 tracks / 52 mins

Opener “Here’s my Heart” is arresting in its simplicity, and its arrangement underscores a palpable attitude of honest engagement with God and being available. Such a stripped-back sound, found throughout the album, puts Yates’ warm vocals up-front and his close-mic delivery helps to convey this. However, it is a shame that – despite the lack of sonic clutter – his vocal style is such that I missed quite a few words, and it took nine goes to catch the repeated key phrase “authentic love” in “Here’s my Heart.”

Even when drums softly come into “Loved by You,” they refuse to play any party tricks, preferring to behave themselves reliably in a corner of the room.

I have been impressed by Yates’ work in the past and when he turned to paint-by-numbers formulae on the one upbeat song “Forgiven,” I was concerned that disappointment might strike. But songs like the Martyn Josephesque title track and “The Unknowing,” with its wrestling through paradoxes, are much-needed explorations of living in the mezzanine floor of faith.

Those with worship lyric bingo cards (“God, you alone are worthy to be praised” etc.) might fill a line or two, but you can sense Yates trying to push the boundaries, especially on the Christmas-friendly standout track “At the Dawn” (very welcome on a non-Christmas album).  If you want to use music to communicate love to God, then this feels a lot more honest than most. The words he uses are actually things that you might want to sing to God, which is rarer than it should be.

Yates has learned the secret that slowing things down can add a disproportionate degree of authority to words and hold attention far more effectively than the same song sung faster. The playing style matches, with single chords often hanging in the air. There is some beautifully discreet decoration to the sound (such as the solitary distant tambourine in “Lead Me”), and that care with the mood of the album sees a solar flare of sudden volume at the heart of “First Love” that works well as a burst of energy to keep the disc’s momentum.

(I must admit to giving a wry smile when Yates nicked phrases off the same writers who ‘borrow’ key lines of hymns, with his, “Coming back to a heart of worship, it’s all about you, Lord.”)

Ian Yates has a way with simple, appealing melodies that carry songs, and these would work well both for personal and corporate devotion.

Derek Walker