Above It All 90

Nothing but open road; this is what hope feels like

Above it All
Artist: Phillips Craig & Dean
Label: Fairtrade Services
Length: 10 tracks/39:27 minutes

On a recent trip I went to bed feeling utterly discouraged. I woke the next morning with “Come as You Are” going through my mind, one of ten songs from Above it All by Phillips Craig & Dean.

The melody and words conveyed a sense of God’s presence and comfort:

Come as you are
As you are
with your heart wide open
And broken
Come as you are
With your wounds and your scars

I appreciate the encouragement to come in my brokenness. It implies acceptance despite failure, which broadens my outlook.

Grace and hope are themes in this recording. The opening, “What Hope Feels Like,” puts it like this:

It's nothing but open road
Now that I'm not alone
I'm saying hello to life
This is what hope feels like

The open road is a picture of no obstacles and progress on the journey. Not being alone, having Christ in one’s life, leads to a brighter day.

I'm learning to live again
I'm learning to love again
I'm learning to dream again
It's like I've been born again

Those with more sophisticates tastes can easily find fault with praise-band worship styles, but I recognize that it can add power to the lyrics. It can be like the sound of rushing waters. After my dark night of the soul, the strong melody and the words of “Come as You Are,” reminded me that God was with me. I could begin again. That very morning my scheduled reading included: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). If I can only keep coming no matter what happens, I will find rest.

Phillips Craig & Dean are among the artists that rose to prominence with the surge in modern forms of worship. Some of their greatest moments have come when they harmonize on power choruses and moving, ballad-like expressions of devotion. “Shine on Us” from My Utmost for His Highest and “Let My Words be Few” from the album of the same name are examples of the latter.

These quieter expressions don’t seem as popular today. The sound here mostly thunders, particularly on the choruses, and the producer has done an excellent job of adding EDM elements to modernize without significantly changing the group’s style. “Let it be Known” goes the farthest toward EDM, and it works. I never would have expected this from Phillips Craig & Dean, but I give them credit for wanting to stay relevant musically.  

These slight deviations interest me the most. Two of my favorite examples are “Hope Has a Name” and “Voices from the Other Side,” back to back tracks. They feature a beautiful interplay of acoustic instrumentation, restrained vocals, and even some storytelling. It left me wanting more, but I realize that many may prefer the more forceful songs. I like them too, but I also appreciate the more acoustic and organic moments, revealing another side of worship.

This consistently sounds a triumphant note. So if you are feeling a bit broken, come as you are. Listen and feel your horizon expand as hope comes alive.

Michael Dalton