Music Monday: Join the Song, Vol. 1 - Erik Michael
Release Date: March 3, 2017
In starting this bi-monthly music review column, I did not fully realize some of the places it would take me or the people I would cross paths with. But I’m coming to enjoy the discovery and connections made with artists of a more indie or unaffiliated background. Much of what I have featured lately are projects which are somewhat "under the radar” but nevertheless, important and relevant within the scope of modern church music. I have featured and probably will continue to feature to some degree, artists you will recognize as established and well-known in the Christian worship genre (i.e. Hillsong, Bethel, et al). But I am finding it just as rewarding to discover those up-and-comers; people well worth your time to listen to and check out.
Erik Michael is one such artist. His project Join The Song, Vol. 1 dropped this past March and it’s been a pleasure connecting with him as a friend and a worshipper of Christ. In his own words, the “biggest theme in this project has been recognition of God’s faithfulness” and Join The Song plays like a modern-day Psalm; proclaiming the goodness and greatness of our Lord.
Inherent in the name, title track and opener “Join The Song” beckons the listener to come and worship…”for the chains are broken, the blind can see, come announce the debt’s been paid, by His grace we are all free.” The “song of freedom” means “revolution” and a “new beginning”…all imagery that must call forth a response of our whole heart and being in worship. Electric guitar-driven and up-tempo, this track would be a perfect worship service opener.
Track two, “Light of Heaven” slows the pace a bit and continues the gathering call, but is clearly focused as much vertical as it is horizontal. Light of Heaven has a Paul Baloche-type of feel both lyrically and melodically and would sit well in a Sunday morning worship set. If you are coming off a big opening song and need to go into something a little slower, this would be a great option. The first chorus is big and open and gets me singing:
So let the light from heaven wash over us now
As we lift Your praises and shout Your name out loud
You are God alone and we fall before Your throne
Let Your light from heaven fill us up, fill us up
Let Your light from heaven fill us up
“Let Your Will Be Done” begins in a place of heart-felt gratitude in response to all that God has given to us. The heartfelt plea of “Lord make me more like You” and “finish what You started in us” is a call asking God to keep refining and keep changing us into His image. I’m digging the banjo strumming out and accompaniment female vocals by Cara Gorman adding a soft harmony. Once again, this is a super-melodic tune and would do well with a congregation.
Up next is “Healer,” a song which has some swing and twang to it but starts out somewhat darker and more contemplative. The song acknowledges Christ as healer: "You told the lame to walk, the mute to speak, the blind to see." But in the same verse, it asks “but what about me?”…so as to say, “in my brokenness, can I also be healed?” Healer comes through like a Davidic-psalm as supplication is made to the Lord for His grace. True to that end, the bridge declares “I lift my hands and raise a song of praise. You give and take away. Blessed be Your Name.”
The faithfulness of the Lord and the constant plea to be made holy and sanctified are continued throughout the bottom half of the disc. “Come to Me” lifts straight from Matthew 11:28-30 as the chorus sings out “Come to Me and I will give you rest…so surrender your heart, come to Me.” “I Have a Hope” is bouncy and light and proclaims God “You are able, You’re all that I need”. When the chorus kicks in, the driving beat has a hoedown feel akin to something All Sons & Daughters or Rend Collective would do. “Road to Kingdom Come” brings a dirty, bluesy-sound and lyrically makes for a wonderful song-story about Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, and our redemption found in Him. Pulling out all the stops, Erik’s soothing vocals alongside slide and resonator guitar licks have made this one an instant favorite for me.
Closing song “I Just Want You” is a bonus live acoustic track. Here Erik’s celtic and bluegrass roots come to light with soft instrumentation as well as multiple voices singing out on the chorus. The track is a perfect end to an album that has its gaze fixed squarely on the Lord.
I just want You, You captured my heart
I just want You, take me back to Your arms
I just want You, You set me apart
Take me back to the start, Jesus
I’m always amazed when heartfelt talent gets combined with outright humility and to me that is the package that is Erik Michael. These songs are a reflection of his heart and his desire to bring honor and glory to God while encouraging others to do the same. Even as I type this, plans are in place for more new music which will be produced by Chris and Anthony Hoisington (aka Brothers McClurg) at their Old Bear Studios in upstate New York. I for one cannot wait for this next batch of songs and will keep you posted as I hear more!