Comprised of five new hymns co-written with Matt Boswell and Aaron Keyes, Church Songs is one of the best examples of an artist mimicking the style of the hymn writers the 18th and 19th centuries to create nostalgic modern prayers with a forward-looking, unifying style for today. This new release from worship leader Matt Papa is Americana meets classic hymn meets modern prayer poetry, and it all comes together as carefully crafted hymnwriting that is subtle and extravagantly generous with rich imagery that points hearts to encounter the risen Savior. The only problem is that it’s only 5 songs long.
With acoustic guitars, organic pianos, shakers, mandolins, and more all supporting Papa’s bare and urgent voice, these songs sound like the heart blood of the church. Free from the need to be radio hits, here are musical prayers that reach out only to God, and because of this will reach into congregational hearts around the world. “His Mercy Is More,” which is featured on this issue of Song Discovery (Vol. 131), praises God with a scriptural foundation (Rom 5:8) and rightly ascribes the distance between humanity and God, but a distance that has been redeemed by the death of our Savior. And “Hollow” reminds us of the love that has been lavished on us in the intimate imagery of the faithful being held in the hollow (or palm) of God’s hand—a place that traditionally also bears the scars of the cross. This is the kind of broad artistry available on Church Songs, and worship leaders would do well to not only download, but use this EP as a primer on prayer songwriting for today and tomorrow.
Sounds Like: Mostly organic, sounding like they were recorded with a standup piano and a roomful of outstanding musicians (except the song “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” which has a bit more guitar drive and electronic approach), these hymns are acoustic and vulnerable.
Most Singable: “Hollow”
Strongest Biblical Content: “Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor” (Heb 6:19)
The Whole Package: “His Mercy Is More”
– Jeremy Armstrong