Matt Boswell and Matt Papa have been cowriting hymns for over a decade, and this album represents the fruit of their co-labor. Boswell is a lead pastor at a church in Texas while Papa serves as artist-in-residence at a Nashville church. Papa has described their regular practice of connecting using video chat or phone call every Wednesday over the years, sharing the melodies, tunes, and lyrics that they were working on independently. Some of these hymns were birthed in just a session or two while others gestated for years in various forms before the writers would agree that they were finished. Boswell and Papa are part of the network of hymnwriters that Keith Getty (host of the annual Sing! Conference in Nashville) has gathered over the years, providing new hymnody for evangelical churches.
Musically, these hymns are built upon piano and acoustic guitar and are thus replicable in many local church contexts. Adorning the basic acoustic instruments are the typical ‘praise band’ arrangement of electric guitar, bass, and drums. There is occasional use of a pad or synth wash, but the focus of these songs is on the melody and lyric. Many of the hymns are also metrical, connecting them to hymn tradition in a meaningful way. Songs are pitched well, with a group vocal (congregation) in the background of the recordings illustrating how these songs might sound in the local church. These songs do not contain the necessary octave jumps or melodic inconsistencies of other, more popular, albums marketed in the “
Lyrically, these songs are robust theological reflections on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Some hymns chart the life, death, resurrection, and soon return of Christ, especially “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” which features Kristyn Getty as a guest vocalist. There are two songs that are properly Advent hymns, focusing on the birth of Jesus and the implications of His incarnation. Even with the focus on theological language, the songs are singable and resonant with issues that Christians endure.
Notable songs include “Lord, From Sorrows Deep I Call” which is based on Psalm 42 and captures the struggle of doubt and faith in the midst of suffering; “Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor” which draws deeply on the nautical metaphor for the assurance of Christ’s faithfulness; and “Come Adore the Humble King” which closes the album and would be a solid addition to any church’s Advent hymnody.
For churches led by acoustic guitar or keyboard/piano, these songs are a valuable addition to available hymnody. Most songs are already pitched well for congregational singing, and the strong melodies and theologically-rich lyrics will make the songs attractive to folks of many generations. Though the hymnwriters are firmly within the evangelical sub-culture, many of these hymns could (and arguably should) be used by Christians of any denominational background for the joy of their congregations.
Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.