Riddle Me This Great Worship Experience | Posted April 21, 2012 Staff Reviewer
Jennie Lee Riddle might not sound immediately familiar to you, but there is a good chance you’ve heard some of the famous tunes she written numerous times before.
Having her songs covered by artists such as Tricia Brock, Rebecca St James, NewSong, JJ Heller, Newsboys and Travis Cottrell, she garnered massive attention in the Christian music industry after Gateway Church covered her powerfully anathematic “Revelation Song” on their Living For You project back in 2006. Kari Jobe, who led the song on the album, later went on to record her own version of it, as did Philips, Craig and Dean, once again earning Jennie some notable songwriting credits as well as two GMA Dove Awards.
Ever since, Jennie has been one of the “go-to” worship songwriters of our day. Her spirit-filled lyrics and descriptive depictions of Christ are unlike anything the genre has seen in quite some time, so it should it come as no surprise that many of the artists in our industry today turn to her as a musical muse when it comes to recording their own projects.
Jennie started the New Nation Music ministry in 2009. It’s a family of sorts., Her husband and four children, accustomed to opening their home, added leaders Will and Crystal Yates to the fold in 2010. Jennie brought them on board from Florida right into the Riddle's Texas home. Together they travel through various areas all across the globe leading worship and teaching. Emily Riddle, 20 year old daughter was the first New Nation Music artist, followed by Crystal, both with albums produced out of the Riddle home. Both ladies are featured artists on Jennie's new project.
It certainly seems like life is anything but slowing down for the gifted songstress. Yet somewhere in the midst of writing, mentoring and raising her family, Jennie took some time out to record People & Songs: Opus 1, the first in a series of deeply-rooted worship albums Jennie has been dreaming up for years.
The idea of “People & Songs” takes on a personal meaning, seeing as the album invites 12 singer/songwriters Jennie has had the honor of writing with over the last few years, and having them come together to showcase their individual talents alongside Jennie’s masterful songwriting. The resulting project is an enhancing worship record sure to capture your attention.
“Waking Up The Dawn,” sung by producer Michael Farren, starts this album off on a folksy note with its back-porch county feel, and transitions into “Faithful,” offering much of the same stylistically. It’s a very organic sounding tune with much of the passion driven by the guest vocals of southern gospel artist, Don Poythress. Jennie notes that it's the most personal song on the record for herself personally, it paying homage to her Grandparents who were married for 60 years.
“Love Like This” changes things up by going in pop direction, once again offering personal heartfelt worship with male vocalist Jason Walker taking on the lead vocal duties. One of Jennie’s most popular songs, “When The Stars Burn Down,” covered by Rebecca St James, Travis Cottrell and more notability by Philips, Craig and Dean comes up next. Led mostly by vocalist Jonathan Lee, Jennie’s subtle background vocals on the front end make this a hard song to forget. Very powerful and moving.
“When Love Was Slain,” is sung alongside ministry partner Crystal Yates and serves as the most lyrically stirring song on the record. It talks of Jesus paying the ultimate sacrifice to save our lives, and how because of it, the life we live today is not our own, but His to keep.
“You Are My Shepherd,” a song made popular by Superchick’s Tricia Brock, is up next and is followed by the southern infused “Glory Fall,” featuring her New Nation family vocals. The beautiful “O Come Devine Messiah” is a modern take on one of the churches most beloved hymns and features a well-fitting guest spot by CCM vocalist, Robbie Seay of Robby Seay Band.
“Nothing’s Changed” comes as a refreshing shift, the song being the first on the project being sung in it’s entirety by Jennie herself. Her distinctively raw vocals set this song apart from the rest and is surely going to lead the listener into a personal moment of worship.
“From Jesus Side” and “Broken For Love’s Sake” both come as mainly acoustic driven tunes but offer up sweet songs of praise to our Creator. “The Pure Will See Our God” meets us once again with vocalist Jonathan Lee and becomes a yet another scripturally inspired song of worship.
“Can’t Get Enough Of You” is a beautifully intimate tune talking about the wonderful presence of our God, it being my favorite song on the record. Co-sung by artist Sarah Reeves and Jennie’s young daughter, up-and-coming musician Emily Riddle, I hope to see this become a song many worship teams adopt as their own: “You’ve made a way for me by Your blood, flowing like a fountain washing me clean, You’ve made a place for me in Your heart, covering me with love in the safety of Your arms.”
Jennie’s most covered work to date, “Revelation Song” is a welcomed treat to fans who’ve enjoyed the song for years. Wonderfully simplistic, it’s a privilege to hear this song it it’s original state. Jennie’s vocals send a chill down your spine and with the powerful addition of Emily Riddle on the second half, you’ll find yourself listening to this one many times in the future.
This impressive collection of unfiltered worship comes to a close with “Inescapable Day,” featuring one of the most beautiful string sections I’ve heard in a long time. The song can be almost seen as a prequel to “Revelation Song,” talking about the day when Christ finally comes back to claim the church. It’s a stunning way to end this album and I can see this song, much like its predecessor, going on to achieve a large amount of success.
I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into this album. As a huge fan of Jennie Lee Riddle’s songwriting, I was excited to finally see her step into the spotlight and share her own take on some these songs, and just as I’d hoped, I wasn’t disappointed. Lyrically, this is some of her finest work, and on the musical end, there is a little something for everyone. Fans of David Crowder Band and Gungor will especially appreciate the musical whimsy, all while keeping its intense Christ-centered focus.
Although Jennie is openly more comfortable singing in a family-like setting surrounded by other voices, I’d personally like to see her take on more of the lead vocals on her next project. She has a very unique voice and I felt it was lost a bit with all the guest spots. Regardless, People & Songs: Opus 1 is an emotionally captivating project sure to lead all of it’s listeners into a personal time of praise and worship. If you’re a worship leader looking for fresh tunes for your congregation, or just a fan of the genre seeking out something new, give this album chance. I can assure you’ve met your match.