This pushes the ‘worship leader’ boundaries in a way that is long overdue.

Label: Bespoke Records /Stabal Music
Time: 7 Tracks; 25 minutes

Who am I to go against an artists’ label? But when they describe this album as “Raw,” I have to disagree. According to my ears, it has a lovely sheen to it, the guitars often shimmering in an almost shoegaze style in opener “Restore my Soul,” which could have been played by The Choir.

If by “raw” they mean “stripped back” in places, or that it is emotionally open, then I will concur.

Elsewhere, the production on this live collection still reflects the restrained adventurousness of his fine studio work, displaying some beautifully clear, spacious sonics, with each track enjoying a different soundscape.

Thankfully, Read goes for quality over quantity and has released just one album and 2 EPs since 2013, earning a reputation for a creative approach to his music. He writes well, with songs telling a story or situation. “Dead Things” relates the exchange between his emptiness and what God can build from it, while “Masks” describes how God’s love is no less when he sees our weaknesses.

“You have seen the worst of me
My love of sin, my jealousy
Yet somehow your affection stays unchanged
You see the scars and love me though I'm weak

Help me look beyond the lies
And see myself through heaven's eyes
To understand my strength is found in you

Nothing hidden in this place
I'll take this mask off, show my face
No pretending, this is me.”

Neither are new topics for Christian music, but Read’s words makes sense and develop one idea per song.

It’s good to see more objective tracks from a worship leader.  We’re only Human” is a response to the Syrian refugee crisis; while the defiantly resolute “Borderless” goes a step further and deals with the relevant issues of tribalism and God’s heart for unity.

“We have no real differences, in pounds, feet or inches, we're the same
And if the skin that we're living in, is bruised or abused, we feel the pain
When they try to divide us, by the things that define us, we're afraid
I'm not playing their game, no, won't be contained

I'm borderless, breaking down barriers
Borderless, no walls between us
Borderless, nothing's gonna keep me in or keep me out

They try to manipulate us, carve up and separate us out
And the truth doesn't matter when the headlines all pander to our doubts
Then they draw up the lines, push us out to one side and we've been named
I'm not playing their game, no, I can't be contained.”

All this is done with a passion and energy that you wouldn’t expect for songs that he has lived with for years.

I do wonder whom this is aimed at, when this collection – only 25 minutes long - comprises reworked tracks culled from his two EPs, offering little new. And why is the opener “Restore my Soul” only 78 seconds long? But if it is an attempt to capture a new audience, then let’s hope he succeeds, as this pushes the ‘worship leader’ boundaries in a way that is long overdue.

Derek Walker