FFH - The Way We Worship as Reviewed in the Phantom TollboothThe former popsters take a winning turn down the road less traveled.

Provident Label Group
12 Tracks (47:17)

Peppy. That's the word that so often comes to mind when seeking to describe irresistably buoyant pure pop confections like "One of These Days," "Big Fish' and "Watching Over Me" – all of which are the work of Lancaster, Pennsylvania's own Far From Home. Now consisting solely of husband and wife Jeromy and Jennifer Deibler, the former quartet more familiarly known as FFH has penned some of Christian Hit Radio's most uplifting, instantly-hummable singles over the course of its nearly two decades together.

One might rightly wonder at the wisdom of choosing to dedicate half of their last four albums to praise-themed material. But while 2007's Worship in the Waiting served up familiar modern praise pieces in the group's infectiously lilting radio-ready lite pop format, the new project is an entirely more organic affair; offering mostly sparse, acoustically-based renditions of traditional hymns in a noticeably less vivacious vein.

Jennifer's piercing, high-lonesome vocals on the beautifully subdued country-folk-inclined "Come Thou Font" and "Be Still My Soul" are of a piece with Allison Krauss' most affecting performances. The smooth, soaring "I'm Coming Home," although constructed around the same country-inflected textures, ratchets up the volume and tempo just enough to make its point without seeming distracting or gratuitious. Newly-penned "First Love" and 'Glorious King," both of which feature Jeromy on lead vocals, fall more along modern praise lines, but nonetheless fit in fairly well with the overall text of the record and offer a nice counterpoint to his wife's generally slower, country-leaning compositions.

The overriding folk and country textures aren't for everyone. And fans of FFH earliest releases may balk at the new album's more laid back tone. Astute listeners trained to appreciate such subtlety and restraint, on the other hand, will surely want to lay hold of what is arguably one of the group's most consistently captivating efforts to date.

– Bert Gangl


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