Album Review: Heaven + Earth: The Psalms Project

Amanda Whittington
  • If your heart and ears are craving a little departure from our treasured pop worship songs, Heaven + Earth is like a long, deep sigh of relief after a busy day.
Aaron Shust Heaven and Earth Singing the Psalms

Aaron Shust* has a deep love and understanding of music and an equally deep passion for wrestling with Scripture. He’s no stranger to the music charts, with hit songs and other accolades throughout his career in Christian music.

He’s also no stranger to the joys and challenges of family and parenting, special needs, and illness that can make or break us.

Throughout all of this, Aaron’s music hasn’t simply matured; instead, it has expanded and blossomed into something refreshing that resonates with our own joys and challenges in Heaven + Earth: The Psalms Project.

Aaron collaborated with Israeli musicians, included passages in Hebrew, and worked in melodic patterns from the Middle East to give us an ancient-modern experience of the Psalms. Heaven + Earth is pretty, meditative, and mystical as it helps us connect with the Ancient of Days.

Aaron Shust Heaven and Earth Singing the Psalms Quote 1

Style

From its very first strains, I felt a sense of relief and peace from Heaven + Earth. This album is a thirst-quenching departure from the popular worship albums we typically listen to and love, tugging our hearts into the laments, songs of praise, and connection to God that we so desperately need.

The guitar patterns are gentle, while Shust’s voice is soothing and laid-back. You can’t mistake the Israeli influences that are a perfect fit for these modern Psalm interpretations. Intricate melodies, gently pulsing percussion, and gorgeous strings flow together to create the feeling of ancient mystique and worship.

Theme

I have always loved the poetry of the Psalms because it gives us such a rich language to use to interact with God and reflects real, raw feelings rather than Christian platitudes. The book of Psalms feels all of the feelings – joy, grief, fear, love, need, and worship.

Heaven + Earth takes some of those most well-known and loved Psalms and turns them into a modern compilation that stays true to the Psalmists’ intent.

If you’ve run out of words to use, you can look to the Psalms and to these songs to give you some, no matter what feelings or circumstances you’re facing. And although these Psalms have been slightly modernized, if you’re acquainted with them, you’ll easily recognize the familiar, comforting words of Scripture.

Aaron Shust Heaven and Earth Singing the Psalms Quote 2

Standouts

All of the songs on Heaven + Earth have a pretty and meditative quality and are firmly based in scripture. However, certain songs and themes stand out to me as songs we really need to hear and to sing.

Forsaken (Psalm 22) is an important psalm for us all. These are the words that Jesus spoke (or possibly even sang) from the cross. The minor key and crooning strings give it the feel of an African-American spiritual.

My Shepherd (Psalm 23) is the most energetic song in this album, putting a fun spin on this treasured Psalm.

Be Gracious (Psalm 51) is a psalm of repentance, helping us to reconnect with God after we’ve wandered away from him.

The Israeli influences are most evident in My Help (Psalm 121), giving the song an almost mystical quality.\

Hold Me Fast (Psalm 139) is one of my favorite Psalms, diving deep into just how intimately God knows us. Aaron’s rendition is reassuring and gentle, with a simple backdrop of strings and guitar.

Hallelujah (Psalm 150) is a beautiful benediction, reminiscent of the old-fashioned 7-fold Amen, with elegant piano and lush harmonies.

Final Thoughts

If your heart and ears are craving a little departure from our treasured pop worship songs, Heaven + Earth is like a long, deep sigh of relief after a busy day. Think of the still waters and green pastures of Psalm 23, the comfort of God’s love in Psalm 103, and the closeness to God in Psalm 139. These pretty and meditative songs put music to the rich language of the Psalms that help us relate to and grow closer to God.

Aaron Shust Heaven and Earth Singing the Psalms Quote 3

More

Aaron creates an ancient-yet-modern feeling in Heaven + Earth: The Psalms Project. He uses treasured Psalms to give us language and music that resonates with our challenges and deep feelings to help us connect with the Ancient and Future God of the Bible.

Less

Aaron covered just 10 of the 150 Psalms. And while he chose some of the most well-loved and poignant Psalms to create this album, I would love to see him uncover more of these ancient poems and show us how relevant they are today.

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