Bluetree Worship and Justice, Nicely polished CCM from the Irish band, but again let down by soundbite lyrics

Label: Integrity
Time: 10 tracks / 48 mins.

A few years ago, two Irish bands made a lot of people sit up and take notice. Rend Collective Experiment brought a fresh, honest naivety to the world of praise music, while the title track of Bluetree's début had a memorable reprise that made it a leading worship song of its year.

Rend grew to the heights, with their own leading song ("Build Your Kingdom Here") before collapsing this year with a bland self-parodying effort, while Bluetree have come out with a generic CCM release, difficult to distinguish from any number of others from the last two decades. Both artists have been subsumed into the industry, with most of their character sucked out as if by liposuction.

Of the two, Bluetree have come out of the process with more credibility, their anthems ringing, if not memorable.

It begins with three cross-centred pieces, which lose a bit of steam with each succeeding track. "It is Finished" celebrates Christ's resurrection in polished, anthemic style; "My Redeemer Lives" is an urgent piece with Tim Hughes chorus; and with "Jesus, Healer" the soundbite lyrics really kick in.

You can imagine Aaron Boyd at home, writing the song and needing a chorus. "What shall I stick in here? Hmm, nothing's coming. OK, what about a default? We could have 'I surrender all'; 'I will worship, praise, adore you or something or other'; or 'Be lifted up'. Yep, that'll do, 'coz then I can have 'Lifting you higher' on another song. Sorted, that's two choruses in one go."

So we get a generic song title ("Magnify") with generic lyrics ("We magnify the name of Jesus Christ/ The lamb upon the throne / Lift on high the name of Jesus Christ / the Saviour of the world.") Never hear that before.

What saves the album is Boyd's passionate vocal performance and some strong production built on emphatic guitar work – "Magnify" has some resonant slide guitar high in the mix; "God You are Good" has a chiming tone and "You Were, You Are" has some ringing guitar. Several songs (such as "New Creation" and "My Rock") make me think that they are hoping to be a new Delirious? Occasionally we get those tremulous, bleepy sounds so popular in CCM a decade ago.

Cheering on my frustration with the lyrical approach is the title Worship and Justice. This is nearly all instantly recognisable as a praise album, but after waiting through several worship songs, I finally realised that there would be nothing about justice after all.

In an interview, Boyd explains, "Worship is justice. The two are inextricable, really. We can't do it all — end world hunger, end poverty, stop human trafficking—but what can we do? I think the church finally understands that our entire lives are an act of worship in the Kingdom of God. When we sing on Sunday mornings, that's an expression, but when we go to work, when we go to school..."

That sounds like he is bottling out of dealing with the difficult stuff. But then he continues, "...when we are smuggled into a country to go and encourage the underground church, or minister to prostitutes—that is all an act of worship. We carry it everywhere we go.... Understanding that when we love God and we love our neighbour, we understand that worship is justice."

So why can he talk about ministering to prostitutes as worship, but not include such things in his lyrics? (And as the band has done this, I applaud their engagement). It's in the gospels, so there is no excuse there. Instead of specific songs about engaging with social justice, the lyrics are a generic cop out.

I can only presume that it is because this is now an industry geared up to selling songs to congregations and songs about prostitutes do not have the necessary ethereal feel-good factor. Either that or they are not good enough as songwriters to be able put such things in lyrical form.

So we are left with yet another anonymous album with intangible lyrics, sounding like anyone between Tim Hughes and Delirious? (Yes, I know that's not a particularly wide span). It is saved only by polished production and passion. The irony is that their name indicates something standing out from the crowd. Maybe next time they'll come clean and change the name to Greentree.

Derek Walker

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