JJ Heller [Deeper] | Posted October 05, 2011 Staff Reviewer
Eighty percent of Deeper by JJ Heller was recorded in September of 2009. That’s when JJ’s hit song "Your Hands," from her 2008 album Painted Red started gaining radio airplay. In October 2009, she made the difficult decision to delay the release of Deeper. JJ and her husband David Heller went back into the studio in August of 2010 to re-track several of the songs in a more polished, radio friendly style. That album came to be known as When I'm With You, one of my top 10 albums of the year with the stand-out song “What Love Really Means.” She always intended to release these songs in their original form. Deeper features five acoustic versions of songs from When I'm With You and seven new tracks. This album more focuses on guitar and vocals more than any other project she’s recorded.
I’m one of JJ’s newer fans and both Painted Red and When I'm With You have been in heavy rotation for me since they released. Naturally I’ve been interested in hearing her back catalog which blew me away once I heard how “Love Me” was re-recorded as “What Love Really Means.” This album displays JJ’s signature acoustic folk music style that paved the way for her current success, which is well-deserved. Opening track “I Get To Be The One” is the perfect opener for Deeper and is JJ’s song written to her second baby daughter Nora (born September 2, 2011), just like “When I’m With You” was written to her first baby daughter Lucy. Interestingly, both girls’ names are references to light. Lucy means “bringer of light.” Nora means “light.” The song is the perfect anthem for parents who are trying to put into words their gratitude for the gift of parenthood. It has a catchy melody and reflects how I feel as a father of three little girls myself. I love when JJ sincerely sings the chorus, “I get to be the one to hold your hand, I get to be the one, through birthdays and broken bones, I’ll be there to watch you grow, I get to be the one.” JJ has admitted that she struggled with anxiety issues in the past and parenthood has really shown her how the love she has for her daughters is selfless. Although this is a sweet and loving song from a mother or father to a child, it is also a profound picture of how God feels about us as His children. Children also love us unconditionally and God wants us to be a picture of His love back to them. Remember that God loves you and there is nothing that we can do to make Him love us more.
This album is a great reflection of that “light” we are all commanded to shine as Christians ‘like a city on a hill’ from Matthew 5. Some great examples are found in the acoustic recordings of “Control,” “No Fight Left” and “Kingdom Come” also found on When I’m With You. These recordings truly allow you to focus in on the strong lyrics and worship along with JJ especially during the emotional song “Control” which includes the extremely moving description of someone seeking perfection and is a cutter who ultimately finds redemption in the “hope living in the blood that was spilled for me.” I started sobbing the first time I heard the emotional bridge of the song, it’s that moving and beautiful. The themes of redemption and relationship continue strongly with the rest of the new songs “In The End,” “Someday” and “Red Against Your Black” which are all arguably the most spiritually focused songs on the album and I love them all. “In The End” comes right from Ecclesiastes with JJ and Dave echoing Solomon’s sentiment, “nothing really satisfies, in the end…you cannot buy peace of mind, there’s nothing new under the sky build your kingdom all your life and say goodbye…in the end.” “Someday” includes JJ tenderly praying “someday, I don’t know when, you will live in peace, may you see redemption, on this side of Heaven, my friend.” A song I keep playing is “Red Against Your Black” which is from the perspective of Jesus forgiving us of our sins: “When you run away, I will bring you back, My Love for you is a Red against your black.” Amen to that! Our sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus and all of these songs reflect the joy that JJ Heller has in Christ, including her ‘relationship’ songs “The Very Thought Of You,” “Sunshine” and “Boat Song.” The album closes prayerfully and hopefully in the gorgeous song “Kingdom Come” with the stirring lyrics “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, all will be made new.”
This is yet another one of those “gourmet” albums that only comes along when JJ Heller puts out a new album. We are super fortunate to have JJ and David Heller release another stellar album while we’re still savoring When I’m With You. I have to fight back tears while listening to several of the songs, especially the odes to JJ’s daughters—“I Get To Be The One” and “When I’m With You.” The acoustic recordings of JJ’s worshipful songs “Control,” “In The End,” “No Fight Left,” “Someday,”“Red Against Your Black” and “Kingdom Come” are not to be missed. This is easily the most authentic album of the year. If you like singer-songwriters like Audrey Assad, Sara Groves, Brooke Fraser and Sandra McCracken, then you must pick up Deeper by JJ Heller.