Steven Curtis Chapman's 2007 record This Moment was chirpy, upbeat and positive. He was celebrating a 20-year-long career. As one reviewer remarked at the time, you get the impression this singer songwriter could write hits in his sleep.
One year later, Chapman's youngest son, Will was pulling into the driveway of the house when one of Chapman's three adoptive daughters - Maria Sue Chunxi Chapman – ran to meet him. In what can only be described as a freak and tragic accident, Will didn't see Maria and accidentally ran her over. The six year old died on the way to the hospital.
As you'd expect, this event had a profound impact on all areas of Steven's life – including his music. 2009's Beauty Will Rise was an album that even the bravest of reviewers struggled to write about. Song titles such as 'Questions' and 'Jesus Will Meet You There' spoke volumes. "Where were you God? / I know you had to be right there / I know you never turn your head / You know that I'm confused by all this mystery," Chapman sang. It was a deeply personal release.
All this history leads us to the songwriter's latest release The Glorious Unfolding. This Moment was upbeat. Beauty Will Rise wasn't. But this album seems to take the best of both of these two worlds and marry them together.
Infectious second track 'Love Take Me Over' has a driving beat with some stunning acoustic guitar work while 'Something Beautiful' talks about God restoring "the broken pieces" and make something beautiful. Even One Direction's drummer Josh Devine was, in Chapman's words "fired up" about the album, spreading the word on Twitter to his 2 million followers.
At the other end of the album sits See You In A little While and the heart wrenching Michael and Maria. This latter track is drenched in emotion as Steven sings to both Maria and his friend's son Michael who died in a skateboarding accident. "I know we'll see you soon" he says after a beautiful thought about the pair sitting in heaven, giving names to babies "this world never knew".
In A Little More time To Love, Steven borrows a line from Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings and sings that "Everything sad will be made untrue". It's a fitting description of the final day. The theme of God's restoration runs deep on this record. Perhaps Steven is hinting that the healing following the family tragedy is (though not complete) progressing.
Feet of Jesus is the perfect ending to a fantastic album. It's a worshipful track that ties the many threads of The Glorious Unfolding together. There's a slow-folk twang to the track, yet it doesn't feel out of place on this pop album.
It's easy to see why Steven Curtis Chapman has more Dove awards than anyone else. His lyrical honesty is what makes his most recent releases so appealing. Unlike many pop albums, the closer you listen to the musical and lyrical complexities of The Glorious Unfolding, the more you grow to love it.