pick-of-the-monthMichael W  Smith Sovereign 90A new label, a new dynamic

Artist: Michael W. Smith (www.michaelwsmith.com)
Label: Sparrow Records
Length: 12 tracks/54:33 minutes

Michael W. Smith is a musical virtuoso, but he may never be more dynamic than when he leads worship. Look no further than Sovereign, which is his latest and finest effort in this category. I might take this over any of his previous releases.

These songs are straightforward with restrained artistry, giving them broad appeal.

They exude the power that comes from combining rock and worship. The choruses are like the roar of many waters! The God of glory thunders and so does the music in the crescendos. In contrast, it is often like a gentle whisper at beginning and end when it’s little more than just Smith and a piano. I like hearing his earnestness and tenderness to sparse accompaniment.

Credit is due in part to partnership with a new label, Capitol Christian Music Group. Smith wisely chose to be open to input and direction, knowing that iron sharpens iron.   

Though it is a studio recording, it has the vitality of the live recordings that our popular in this genre. It’s easy to imagine it being performed in arenas filled with throngs of people singing along. It rivals its secular counterparts because of its object. The sense of majesty is but the dim reflection of God’s awesome glory, which is beyond description.

One of five cover songs is “Christ Be All Around Me.” It’s an excellent adaptation with a chorus derived from early Irish poetry:

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

It serves as a lovely reminder of the pervasiveness of God’s presence.

Two of my favorites, “Hide Myself” and “You Won’t Let Go,” are collaborations with a couple of the best songwriters in Christian music, Mia Fields and Seth Mosley. These songs are such a winsome blend of pop, praise and comfort. Does it anyone do it better than Smith?

I like the closing duet with Kari Jobe (“The One That Really Matters”), but it is a little long and repetitive. It detracts somewhat from the powerful thought that in the end, pleasing God is all that matters.

Sovereign debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200. Just prior to this, Smith and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store released Hymns, Smith’s take on classic hymnody. 

Michael Dalton