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Greater Things
Artist: Bluetree
Label: Bluetree Publishing
Length: 13 tracks / 71 minutes  
 
I predict that we will be hearing a lot of “Life’s Noise,” the opener to this set. The stadium-minded anthem has a deep groove and a powerful ending that could happily go on and on and on. Not that mine is a particularly brave prediction. “God of this City” - the track from whose lyrics the collection gets its title – has already been used by Chris Tomlin as a theme tune for the recent Passion tour, and that also has an instrumental run-on at the end (much as Delirious? did on Glo, for example). 
 
These two are among the artists who evidently have shaped Bluetree’s sound. There are strong shades of Tomlin on “Life’s Noise” and the band shows the D: boys’ influence on “Burn Me Up” and “For You”. Fans of David Crowder might be pleased to hear that he has also had some say in this Irish band’s sound. If by now you think that you have got an idea of what this disc is like, this is not just some carbon copy act, looking for fame by imitating the successful artists in their genre. There are surprises later on. A strong act, Bluetree (named to suggest that Christians should stand out in the crowd like a blue tree in a forest) are confident enough in what they do to insist on controlling their own content, production and marketing, while trying to survive full time – not easy to maintain in Northern Ireland. After “God of this City,” one of five tracks over 6:19 in length, they grow more reflective and develop their own presence.
 
“God of this City” – an anthem of hope that asks us to expect God to work in surprising ways – has an unusual genesis, which also shows the spiritual heart of the band. They had been out to Thailand for some mission work, but had wanted to make the most of their free days. In Pattaya (“The darkest place we have ever been to - you just feel the evil”) they got a gig in a bar on one of the main streets for prostitution at its worst. They started playing, being a presence for God, worshipping and prophesying over some loops; and the song was written by the time that they had walked out. They felt that the incident was one of their most dynamic worship experiences.
 
Wisely, they include their version of “When I Survey” – and I don’t remember hearing a better example of how to make this classic come alive in the present. It builds slowly, as you might expect, bursting into an exhilarating last verse. Then, when other tracks might extend, this one quietens down for the last phrase and leaves it trembling in the air. It’s an example of how they judge the mood just right. Longest track “River” is a more delicate and slow piece that works well for meditation, as does “Who Has Held?” Such long, slow songs vary the tone of the disc (and give more value than you are likely to get when a band is tied to a record label).
 
It’s not all good news. Some tracks verge on standard praise and worship, so would not be missed if they weren’t there (but even these are put together better than the copycat acts). Lyrically, they could do with the immense care that they show in every other area being employed in growing a more creative approach. “Each Day” is an example: “You’ll get the praise you’re due / Even the rocks cry out to you” feels like a lazy appropriation of the usual scriptural phrases.
 
But overall, this is a fine disc. Its excellent production, strong songs, sense of praise and sensitive pacing make it one of the best worship debuts I can think of.
 
Derek Walker

               
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
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