Irishman Nathan Jess started out as a singer songwriter. Although he was also leading worship in church he never married the two worlds. He saw musical storytelling as different from musical worship. But now with the release of his debut album Love Stands Forever, Nathan has taken the bold step of recording songs for the church to sing.
In a recent interview Nathan explained: "There are some people out there who are more artsy in their character and personality so when they come to worship they want to embrace that more narrative, poetry, imagery and all that kind of stuff."
For many lovers of Christian music, the words "Irish", "Christian" and "Music" are likely to conjure up images of a certain collective, playing banjos and singing "Build your kingdom here". While Jess's style is not dissimilar to Rend's, it's definitely distinctive. There's folk influences but overall this (like many singer/songwriter albums) is a laid back affair.
Lyrically we might expect a little more storytelling or 'out of the box' ideas. So it's a little disappointing to find words that although worshipful, aren't particularly different or unusual. Jess's singer/songwriter background has definitely helped him craft pleasant tunes and gives him a warm confidence, but lyrically, there's little that's new here.
Buried toward the back end of the album, we find a gem in Broken Hallelujah. The strings have been beautifully arranged as Jess sings a deeply personal tune about trusting God in all circumstances. "In spite of the circumstance, let praises ring" he sings with heartfelt determination and authenticity.
It's the slower tunes that really hit home, and final track Prayer is no exception to this rule. "Father hear my restless voice / Speaking out your name / Longing to be home at last / Where my God abides" Nathan sings. Tracks like this give the album a wonderful 'Sunday afternoon' mood. Its chilled, relaxing and spiritually uplifting all at the same time.
Fans of All Sons and Daughters will enjoy this release that mixes gentle sounds with heartfelt praise and worship. It's an album that will minister to believers in a variety of situations and Jess has done well to develop a musical style that has an extremely wide appeal.
How far can this singer/songwriter go? That remains to be seen. He's made a good start, touring with Ben Cantelon, Phil Wickham and Rend Collective. He may be all of those acts' junior in age and gifting. But he takes Rend's folk, Cantelon's heart for worship and Wickham's acoustic style and mixes them beautifully. All in all this is a sound effort from a promising new artist.