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“Jesus is speaking but it’s so hard to hear when disciples with swords are cutting off ears.”

A Way to See in the Dark
Artist: Jason Gray (www.jasongraymusic.com)
Label: Centricity
Length: 12 tracks/47:28 minutes

I listen to Jason Gray for the same reason that people might listen to Bob Dylan. He has a way with words. They take unexpected turns and are poetic. They are revealing and vulnerable.

It is what makes the music of Rich Mullins such a delight. It is a combination of spiritual insight, literary sensibility and a quirkiness that get yours attention. I relish it wherever I find it. I hear it in Christian artists like Randy Stonehill, Bob Bennett, Steve Bell, Carolyn Arends and Andrew Peterson to name a few.

I relate to it because it often springs from brokenness and humility. However one might define a victorious Christian life, it is not a state of perfection. One of my favorite phrases comes from the book of James, “We all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). Artists like these convey grace and truth, something that I will always need.

It’s why I find a song like the opening “Remind Me Who I Am” so endearing. “When I lose my way, and I forget my name, remind me who I am,” Gray sings on the opening line. “In the mirror all I see is who I don’t want to be, remind me who I am.” The Official Music Video reminds us that we often fail to grasp a truth that is greater than our broken condition. Grace changes not only how God sees us but how we should see ourselves.

The longing that you hear is coupled with music that has somewhat of a rustic quality. It reminds me a little of The Band. A synthesizer that sounds like an accordion (or is it an accordion that sounds like a synthesizer?) comes in on the chorus. This is the Jason Gray that I like the best—acoustic, stripped-down production with yearning rumination.

On the track that follows, “The End of Me,” he sounds more like Coldplay, even down to the falsetto, not that this is bad. The chorus is an interesting derivative of the hymn, “It is Well with My Soul.” Skip to track three, and the power chords on “No Thief Life Fear,” may be fitting, but I find them less appealing than Gray just strumming his guitar.

“Without Running Away” is my favorite. The memorable lines like the following just keep coming, “Jesus is speaking but it’s so hard to hear when disciples with swords are cutting off ears / Broken and bleeding, waiting for healing to come.” The rural sound and sparse production are a perfect complement to Gray in his Dylan mode.

I favor his folksy, storytelling side. When he moves more toward rock, it’s less compelling. Generally, it’s the quieter mid-tempo songs where I lose myself in the words and sound. It makes me feel more alive and less alone. That’s part of what good art does to me.

One of the most poignant moments is “Nothing is Wasted.” This is the song to hear when you feel like your life is a wreck and past redemption. It mentions Jesus by name. It wasn’t too long ago that there was a controversy over how often Christian artists used (or did not use) the name of Jesus. A song might be judged by whether you heard (and how often) Jesus’ name. Hopefully, that kind of thinking is long gone, but because so many artists began to refer to God with personal pronouns and vague references, I notice when that name is used. Gray does it here on at least three songs, and it almost seems counter-cultural. I like it because I never want to lose sight of Christ.  

A Way to See in the Dark by Jason Gray contains some of the best songs that he has ever done. If you like singer/songwriters, especially those mentioned previously, check out Jason Gray. He has become one of the finest writers in Christian music. His childlike faith will help him and the rest of us find our way in the dark.

Michael Dalton