Music Review | “Canyon” By Ellie Holcomb

Ellie Holcomb has a sound all her own, the passion of a worship leader mixed with the gentleness of a singer-songwriter and the fire of a creative indie artist. All of those elements combine to add a special something to her previous projects, 2014’s As Sure as the Sun and 2017’s Red Sea Road. Each collection of songs feels deeply personal and autobiographical, all the while inviting listeners to find their own story in every lyric. The same is true of her newest record, Canyon

Get-stuck-in-your-head “I Don’t Want To Miss It” opens the album with a call to presence and awareness, much like thoughtful “Color” that offers a chance to slow down and breathe in the beauty of this life. Sparked by the stunning visuals from a trip to the Grand Canyon, the title track explains the message of the album: “There’s a river running through my deepest sorrow / there’s a river running through my deepest pain / there’s a river running through every dream that never came true made me a canyon / but there’s a river running through.

Born from a season of personal pain, the Nashville tornadoes and the pandemic, the songs on Canyon explore the space where joy meets lament. A track that does that in a truly noteworthy way, “Sweet Ever After” features the vocals of NEEDTOBREATHE frontman Bear Rinehart and feels sonically triumphant as the co-writers sing stories of deep tragedy marked by the hope of redemption to come.

Natalie Hemby lends her voice to “Paradox,” another song that walks the fragile space where tragedy and hope meet. “Stronger” is an upbeat moment of encouragement, the perfect summer anthem for those in need of a little inspiration, as “Brand New Day” offers another fun sonic moment on the album. 

On the more laid-back side of Canyon, “Mine” features Ellie’s husband Drew Holcomb in a tender lullaby-of-sorts to her children. While the song is obviously written from the perspective of parents to their children, it takes on a double meaning when listened to from the perspective of our Heavenly Father to us. “Gold,” an equally special moment on the record, sees Carly Bannister join Ellie to walk us through the life story of a boy who doesn’t see his worth.

Ellie’s vocal prowess goes to a whole new level on “Constellations,” a song that feels particularly raw and vulnerable in its lyrical content and makes for an emotional, powerful listen. Yet another lyrical standout moment, “I Will Carry You” is a beautiful song of support and companionship in seasons of difficulty. 

From the first note to the last, Canyon is one of those rare records that feels beautifully vulnerable in the way these songs tell stories and powerfully carried by Ellie’s voice and heart. Each song is carefully crafted to spark both room for lament and inspiration for joy. This record feels personal yet invitational, as though Ellie has offered her own pain (the canyons) and redemption (the rivers) to allow listeners to find the same hope. Every lyric tells a story of our Heavenly Father meeting us in sorrow, while the sonic layout of the record spurs listeners towards triumphant joy in the midst of the valley.

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