Brandon Heath’s previous albums have had a very mixed response from critics.
Take 2008’s What If We for example. The album's first single Give Me Your Eyes was snapped up by fans on both sides of the Atlantic. With its feel good sound and powerful message, it was hard to find someone who didn’t love the song. But while critics adored Brandon’s breakthrough single, they were unappreciative of much of the rest of the album.
Now, four years and one album on from What If We, Brandon is back with Blue Mountain.
Opening with The Harvester, Brandon’s superb voice rings out over a country influenced acoustic guitar part. Lyrically, it’s about the urgency of evangelism. Musically, it’s one of the artist’s best songs.
Second track Jesus in Disguise is Brandon’s first single. “You were looking for a king you would never recognise” appears to be a reference to the Jewish hope of a person who would conquer the Romans in the first century.
But with the album often focusing on death and suffering (the 7th track is a touching tribute to Brandon’s late Grandfather) it’s likely that Jesus In Disguise is about how God meets the singer in the darkest of times.
Full of radio friendly tracks, Brandon clearly has a talent for writing catchy pop-based tunes. His lyrics are edgy and perhaps even prophetic in places. Diamonds, for example, is about storing “treasure up in heaven”. The singer has a knack for setting Biblical teaching to music, and doing it in a way that’s honest and thought provoking.
Pride (Wont Get Us Where We’re Going) is a good example of this. The melody soars beautifully as Brandon demonstrates his ability in singing a range of different styles across the album.
In The Dust is full of atmosphere as big hits on the cymbals and electric guitars give the track a feeling of magnificence. It’s a clever and satisfying arrangement that stands out for all the right reasons.
Brandon has managed to find the perfect balance of writing on a variety of subjects, while retaining a theme and consistency in his music and lyrics that runs throughout the album. From the worshipful acoustic track He Paid It All to reflections on death in Dyin’ Day and the country influenced Hands of The Healer, there’s something for everyone.
Love Does is in many ways the perfect end to a very solid album. “Nobody knows why your heart is broken…but love does” he sings wrapping up his themes of pain and hope.
Production-wise there are few surprises. The album is not the beginning of a new sound for Brandon. His signature pop-tastic tunes remain. But while the sound is unchanged, Blue Mountain does mark a new direction for the singer. It’s more personal and deeper in meaning than some of his previous efforts.
All in all Brandon should be very proud of his fourth album. Fans of Casting Crowns and Third Day will enjoy this recording. Blue Mountain is full of soul, imagery and stories - all set to memorable pop music.
Rating: 8 out of 10
January 29th, 2013 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes