Aaron Shust - Morning Rises (as reviewed by The Phantom Tollbooth)

Shust's last effort disconcerted more than a few fans. Does he win them back this time out?



Runaway success in the music business is a funny thing. On the one hand, there is the undeniable temptation for the artist in question to replicate that which brought them to their lofty perch in the first place. On the other side of the coin, though, many a performer has felt emboldened, in the wake of such widespread praise, to venture out into previously-uncharted waters, hoping that the existing members of the fan base will understand what they’re trying to do and make the trip with them.

For Aaron Shust, it’s been a little bit of both. His debut album, Anything Worth Saying, was commercial landmark, thanks in large part to its catchy, stripped-back folk-pop-leaning second single, “My Savior My God,” which climbed to the top spot on no less than six national charts, perched there for a month and a half, and eventually went on to be the Number One Christian song of 2006.

While the next few outings, to varying degrees, held to the template carved out by the freshman record, Shust’s most recent offering, 2011’s This Is What We Believe, was a decidedly different animal from his earliest efforts. Indeed, more than a few devotees who had listened since the first release were less than thrilled by its foray into decidedly glossier, custom-fit-for-radio pop/worship territory.

One might assume that prevailing logic would dictate a return to the folk-pop textures of the inaugural project. Such, as it turns out, is not the case, on Shust’s latest album. Indeed, “Cornerstone,” “Great Is the Chorus” and “The One” are fairly indicative of Rises’ tendency to tread the same pleasant but commonplace mid-tempo lite pop/worship path as the lion’s share of the material  found on its predecessor. Entries such as “God Is for Us,” it should be noted, do feature a more peppy rhythmic aesthetic than those just mentioned, but are still neither as unique nor memorable as early chestnuts like “Savior” and “Give It All Away.”

In fairness, the new record, on average, is a bit more melodically engaging than Believe. Similarly, the lone folk-pop-flavored number, “Deliver Me,” stands toe to toe with anything on the much-heralded debut.  And Shust’s lyrics are noticeably more coherent this time out, which stands in stark contrast to the wording of the last release, which, at times, came across as a mere collection of short snippets of Scripture sewn together at random to form individual songs.

To be sure, Rises isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, fans who loved Believe should be equally taken with its follow-up. Those hoping against hope that the last project was merely a bump in the road, on the other hand, are liable to be disappointed that such is not the case. Listeners who fall somewhere between the two extremes would be best advised to sample Shust’s new album – since it certainly has much to recommend it – and cherry pick the most promising cuts for download.



– Bert Gangl, The Phantom Tollbooth (05-22-2013)

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