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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Todd Agnew
Label: Ardent Records
URL: <http://www.ardentrecords.com>, <http://www.gracelikerain.com/>
Times: 13 tracks/51:27 minutes
There's a really neat trend in current praise and worship music to merge the old with the new, and while it may be tempting to think this trend may become old hat right quick, Todd Agnew hasn't just jumped on the band wagon -- he's contributed to this trend in an innovative bunch of styles. Grace Like Rain is an excellent offering in contemporary praise recordings.
Want a quick overview of this project in four and a half minutes? Cruise the climes of the CCM airwaves for the title track. Beginning at a slow pace, merging into a beat reminiscent of Seal's "Crazy," adding many of the lyrics from "Amazing Grace" (yes, the hymn) along with instrumentation that walks toward the line of being cluttered but never quite gets there, and capped off with a chorus that's easy to participate in worship, and there's the tidy smorgasbord that personifies Grace Like Rain.
This project is guitar-oriented worship, and what makes this one different? A few critical (as opposed to discerning) ears may quickly say, "Yeh, another Jeremy Camp." Not quite so. None of Agnew's tunes are of the absolute rock-your-socks-off quality. In fact, Agnew flirts with jazz in "Kindness," and there are ingredients of folk and introspective worship interwoven in "Come Ye Sinners" and "Wait for Your Rain," with only slight similarities to Passion, (current) Maranatha! or Vineyard.
Agnew has developed a unique music style with a very good variation of elements of the new and the old, and ditto for the lyrics. There is traditional hymnody included in _Grace Like Rain,_ and, of course, there's plenty of scripture. I don't think I've heard a setting of Romans 12:1, and the track by that title rocks The Word! It's easy to enter into worship with every tune on this project, and these songs don't include just one set of easy catch phrases (bottom line for worship leaders: there is no "He is Exalted" here).
As a project for pure listening, Grace Like Rain will certainly grow on the listener who may have initial concerns that it "sounds like. . . [see aforementioned artists]." Agnew is molding his own style, and while there is room for some stylistic tightening of a-nip-here-and-a-tuck-there -- the overall flow of the project is not as smooth as it could be -- this work by Todd Agnew is a very satisfying and fulfilling set of unique praise and worship songs. Grace Like Rain is a must-have project, specifically for those listeners and participants who enjoy guitar-oriented worship.
Olin Jenkins 1/7/2004