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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Hold You High
Artist: By The Tree
Label: Fervent Records
Time: 11 tracks / 51:07 minutes
For this CD, By The Tree decided to return to their roots (no pun intended) as praise and worship leaders. Unlike many praise and worship CDs put out by contemporary artists, more than half the songs on the CD were written or co-written by current or former By the Tree members. That doesn't even include a new arrangement that they did, of the old familiar hymn, "It is Well." They also managed to perform a unique version of the often-covered hit, "God of Wonders" as the song sounded almost completely acoustic. While this made the song not sound as passionate as the version by Caedmon's Call and Mac Powell, it did make it sound more intimate. Unlike some praise and worship CDs, where almost every song on the CD frequently appears on many other praise and worship CDs, only one song on this CD falls into that category of frequently being covered elsewhere (the previously mentioned, "God of Wonders"). That helps make this CD unique and stand out.
The CD starts off with the title track that begins with a rock sound. This immediately tells you that this worship CD will rock and not just be your stereotypical praise and worship CD. "Only to You" the second track furthers the idea that this CD will be one of the more memorable praise and worship CDs, but this time its because of the deep lyrics. In this song, which was co-written by Chuck Dennie (who does guitar and vocals for the group), the band sings of "the one that I love my heart has seen / The day will come- the return of our King / Knees will bow and tongues will confess / All nations all tribes they will sing...". The amazingly insightful and deep lyrics continue with "Miraculous," which was written by a former member of the band. In "Miraculous" the band sings, "Heaven opens like a floodgate / A single drop of blood made the universe turn upside down / Deeper than the nails were driven, is the more sin was forgiven...". The music of the song contrasts the lyrics with a sound that could almost be described as "tongue-in-cheek".
The CD slows down with "Reveal," which Chuck Dennie wrote and the band recorded on their first CD. Dennie loved the song so much that it was important to him that they use it on their first national worship album. This song may very easily make its way into worship services in churches across the country as might "Throne of Grace." I have memories of singing "It is Well" in a small church in high school but the version on this CD is one of the most unique versions I have ever heard and should quickly become a favorite of many churches across the country. This unique version may be used by churches who are seeking to balance between using the old hymns and new praise and worship choruses.
The tempo picks back up with a cover of the Matt Redman penned "Lord Let Your Glory Fall." It slows down for "Jesus Washed," which has deep, but also simple lyrics. This one, like many other songs on this CD, could easily make its way into praise and worship services across the country.This CD is one of those where you never have to use the skip button to skip a song that you don't like because top to bottom every song on this CD is good. Listeners may still have favorites, but that is due to personal taste and experiences and not due to poor songs.
By the Tree may not be known by many listeners of CCM but listeners should not let their lack of experience or knowledge about this group keep them from checking out this CD. With its song selection, deep lyrics, and unique interpretations of two familiar songs, this CD is is easily one of the best praise and worship CDs of recent memory.
Burton Wray June22, 2004