|Hope is Rising | Posted July 08, 2013
Pennsylvania native Aaron Shust's career began with a bang. Boosted by the success of "My Savior, My God," his debut reached No. 1 on the Christian album charts, and Shust went home from the 2007 Dove Awards toting a trio of doves: Song of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, and New Artist of the Year. He seemed to be Christian Music's new Crown Prince. However, despite his loyal following, Shust's breakout chart success has not yet been repeated. Still, he has soldiered on and continued to write thoughtful, committed worship.
Morning Rises marks Shust's fifth release, the second on his new label home, Centricity Music. As on the last record, he has tapped Ed Cash for production duties. Notably, this is the first time that Shust has recorded with his touring band rather than enlisting studio musicians. The result is a more personal, energetic sound which captures his reinvigorated spirit.
No stranger to adversity, Shust and his wife have weathered health-related storms with two of their children— second-born Nicky and their youngest, Michael. Even in the middle of these challenges, Shust has seen joy and witnessed miracles. Still, though God does not always heal, Shust's faith remains unshaken.
Indeed, Morning Rises optimistically breaks the silence with shimmering opener "God of Brilliant Lights." Shust's hopeful spirit is infectious as he declares, "The God of brilliant lights is shining down over us / Breaking through the darkness, covering all the earth."
Continuing to bear witness to an ever-strong God upon whom we can confidently place our hope, Shust faithfully covers the Hillsong hit "Cornerstone."
"Rushing Waters," the first of two songs Shust calls "throne room" songs, is the disc's first stumble. Although musically vibrant and creative, the song is not lyrically memorable. And as arresting as the outro is, the track goes on a little long.
By contrast, the raw but tight garage band sound of "God is For Us" bursts forth with undeniable energy. On this, the record's most aggressive, straight-ahead rock number, Shust's vocals are strong and impassioned as he exults, "We will not be shaken / We will not be silent / Sin is powerless / Our God is for us / We will not be broken / We won't be defeated / Death is powerless / Our God is for us."
While "Rushing Waters" falls a little flat, on the second "throne room" song, "Great is the Chorus," all the elements fall into place: a beautiful guitar intro, a melodic lyric that builds to a crescendoed refrain, and beneath it all, a steady percussive heartbeat. You'll want to take your place in the imagined Heavenly chorus as Shust affirms, "Great is the chorus of the angels of God / The glorious sound of Your name lifted high / Together we worship / Together we cry / You are worthy."
The praise continues as a grateful Shust thanks God on "No One Higher." The chorus, which feels immediately familiar, attests to God's sufficiency: "Lord we stand amazed in Your presence / Astounded by Your mercy and love / Our hands are lifted high in surrender / Your Grace for me is always enough."
Big worship songs aside, Shust's strongest moments are still the quiet ones. Stunning ballad "Deliver Me" is an honest cry for deliverance rooted in a trusting faith. This tranquil tune will bring calm and peace to listeners. What balm for a thirsty soul!
"The One" finds Shust facing an uncertain future, with his gaze unwaveringly fixed on God. Shust professes his trust, declaring he will not fear, "for the One who holds tomorrow / Holds me in His hands." Indeed, we need never fear, for God is "the One who holds it all."
Shust picks up the pace with "Mighty Fortress," which he co-penned with Paul Baloche. The guitar-driven worship tune reminds that our God is "a tower of strength, never failing," who "won't abandon...won't deceive...won't desert...won't ever leave."
Intimate number "Satifsy" throws itself into the ring to battle "Deliver Me" for the bragging rights of the album's prettiest song. Assisted by emotive production, "Satisfy" makes it a close contest as Shust professes, "When the battle weakens me / You will be my victory / You supply my every need," while petitioning the Lord to "fill us with Your rest / and fill us with your spirit / fill us with your love."
How does Shust round out a record that is full of hope and trust? By filling it to overflowing, of course, with "Firm Foundation," a rousing tune that recalls Rend Collective Experiment with its contagious energy and enthusiasm!
Though the record has its share of uptempo tracks and grand worship anthems, the best moments are found in thoughtful tracks like "Deliver Me" and "Satisfy." While listeners may clamor for more of these folksy songs, Aaron Shust has presented a balanced, solid set of songs of various tempos and sounds that are unified in scope and theme.
Here Shust sings songs that communicate a sufficiency and strength that can only be found in the Savior. Songs that remind us that no matter how insurmountable our problems or worries may be, God is infinitely greater. And no matter how blanketing the darkness feels, we must not despair. For in Him hope is ever-present, and daybreak certain.
Without a doubt, Morning Rises finds the singer-songwriter resting firmly on God's promise, proclaiming that "through the storm, He is Lord."
Song to Download Now:
"God of Brilliant Lights" (Get it on iTunes here
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