Music Monday: Grace Rising - The SOZO Sessions EP

Music Monday:  Grace Rising - The SOZO Sessions (Live Acoustic EP) 

Release Date:  October 15, 2017 

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it exciting when one of my favorite bands releases a live project.  Don’t get me wrong; I totally enjoy studio albums and the polished end result.  But I think there’s just something about a live album:  it captures a moment in time and puts you in the room with the music.  There’s an element that’s raw and organic when you can hear the audience singing and clapping along; it feels so very real.  So naturally when I heard Grace Rising was scheduled to release a live EP this fall, I was pumped! 

The SOZO Sessions live acoustic EP is the latest offering from Grace Rising; a worship band based out of Grace Community Church in Arlington, Virginia.  It’s a follow-up to the band’s debut self-titled release (see my previous #musicmonday Grace Rising post here).  From www.gracerisingband.com“In June of 2017, the group reinvented several of the songs from their previous studio album and held an intimate worship gathering to produce a live acoustic EP. Grace Rising will give all profits from the new live album to support the missions organization SOZO Children, whose mission is to glorify God through saving children in need, building community, and connecting individuals to experience the love of Jesus Christ.” 

Christian Nuckels leads out on opening track “Adopted By The King,” a song which fits perfectly on an album which lends missions support to children.  Singing out lines like “Melted this heart of stone and called this child Your own, now all my hope is found in You alone,” Adopted By The King is the song of every orphan who finds the love of the Father.  This song works great in a stripped-down style and to me is very reminiscent of a Housefires or United Pursuit-type of sound.   

“Risen From The Grave” features Mikay singing lead as acoustic guitar, violin (provided by Julie Tavares), and pulsating drums lead out a very recognizable intro melody.  Believe me when I say the main intro riff runs through my head A LOT!  It’s so catchy. This song has a strong sing-ability and is full of rich theological truth.  I love these verses and the truth they proclaim: 

He’s alive  
In Him the lost are found 
Trading filthy rags for the victor’s crown 
Because He lives  
There is hope for you 
Through a blood-stained cross and an empty tomb 

I was glad to see one of my favorite tracks from Grace Rising’s debut release included here as well.  “Running” has a unique feel and groove; the bass guitar and drummer playing “in the pocket” really holds it all together.  And again, the violin soaring melodically throughout makes for a fun track!  The breakdown with Neesa Wilkerson reading from Hebrews 12:1,2 is such a powerful addition as well.  

The last couple of tracks on the EP, “Lift Up Your Voice” and “Pour Out Your Presence” feature Mikay and Neesa Wilkerson respectively and give a different take on each as Christian hands off lead duties. If a church were looking for songs that are singable in either a female or male key, there are several great options between either of the Grace Rising projects (just FYI for worship teams out there).  Lift Up Your Voice feels very congregational and I love the trade off between Christian and Mikay on the bridge.  Pour Out Your Presence finishes things out nicely with a soft piano lead alongside fingerpicked guitar and violin.  Both of the women on these last tracks can flat out sing but beyond the command in their vocals, I love the heart for worship that comes from each.  It’s truly refreshing and as a listener, I’m drawn right into the presence of the Lord.   

I’m excited for Grace Rising and pray that God will continue to open doors for the group's ministry. There is definitely an atmosphere that is authentic and genuine; it comes through on each project.  In addition, the musicianship and lyrical content in each song is of a quality that rivals many major-label worship acts.  For me it’s proof that the local church can and should be doing it’s own music to benefit its own community…and beyond.  Often this just means starting somewhere and being available to the Lord.  I believe that is what Grace Rising is doing and will continue to do as they run and chase after the Father’s heart. I can’t wait to hear what comes next! 

Until the next #musicmonday, God bless! 

Derek Charles Johnson is a Christ-follower, Singer-Songwriter, & Recording Artist residing in Spring Hill, Tennessee.  He can be reached at info@derekcharlesjohnson.com 

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