Some artists enter the studio determined to make a radical departure from who and what they are, or indulge some musical flavor of the month in a bid to expand the fan base. In either event, those strategies often backfire — though in staying true to his calling, GRAMMY® winner Chris Tomlin thinks not of popularity, but rather the populace his music can touch and encourage.
“I’m not trying to make a different kind of record,” says Tomlin of his latest effort, Love Ran Red “It’s still the same path I started down: writing songs for the church, songs people can sing, songs that connect with people in their heart and move them in a way only songs can. That’s not changed — and yet this collection I feel is the strongest I’ve ever done.”
That’s setting the bar quite high for his tenth studio recording, given that his last effort “Burning Lights” kicked off 2013 as a No. 1 album. It also led to sold-out tour dates, Billboard Music Awards, being named a BMI Songwriter of the Year and receiving the K-LOVE Fan Award for Male Vocalist of the Year and Dove Award for Songwriter of the Year.
Yet Love Ran Red picks up where its predecessor left off. True to its title, it expresses beating-heart faith and channels love’s ceaseless flow into a dozen songs to get the blood pumping and spirits soaring.
To that end, Love Ran Red shows Tomlin reaching and stretching forward, even as he leans back on what’s always worked best. Produced by longtime friend and collaborator Ed Cash (Kari Jobe, Vince Gill, David Crowder* Band, Dave Barnes, Steven Curtis Chapman), the album strikes stirring tones of hope, praise and the peace found only in God’s presence.
The album’s first hit single, “Waterfall” conjures images of people dancing in the rain as Tomlin showers the listener with a call and response: “Your love is like a waterfall, waterfall/ Running wild and free/ You hear my heart when I call, when I call/ Deep calls to deep.”
Then there’s “Jesus Loves Me,” the follow-up single. Kicking off with a regal, anthemic piano, the song rolls into thunderhead rhythm before hitting its thrilling, reassuring chorus: “Jesus how can it be? He loves me, he is for me.” Tomlin then declares, in a brilliant turn of phrase: “He holds the stars and holds my heart/ With healing hands that bear the scars.”
It’s a very personal song for Tomlin, a songwriter not often known to go that route. “I sang it from somewhere deep inside,” he says. “You can’t outlive the presence of God, the love of God, and God will find you wherever you are. We can spend our whole lives learning all this grand theology of God. But at the end of the day it comes down to ‘Jesus loves me.’”
The track juxtaposes beautifully with “Almighty,” which also starts with solo piano but takes a different lyrical route. “It’s about the majesty of God, the holiness and beauty and complete otherness of God, where we come to worship him for who he is — this massive untouchable God—and bow as low as we can in his presence.” That majestic message collects musical momentum and might, keeping its sing-along appeal even as Tomlin celebrates God’s “sovereign crown of royalty.”
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