Artist: Chris Renzema
Album: I’ll Be The Branches
Rating: 4 stars
Overview: Singer-songwriter Chris Renzema’s self-produced I’ll Be The Branches is like a musical diary in the life of a believer who longs to experience and reflect more of Christ each day. Major themes running throughout these nine songs include baptism, consecration to Christ, the experience of God’s presence, and the stubborn hope of glory in the midst of suffering.
Lyrics that are at turns visceral and visual bring the picture sharply into view, like “I’d give all my freedom, yeah I’d become a slave / To lay on your shore and be washed by your waves” from “God Be My Vision,” and “I’m a son of the valley, a daughter of fear / From the dust we’re raised and to the dust we’re reared” from “Not Yet.”
In standout song “How To Be Yours,” Renzema identifies with the orphan who dares not hope to be loved. Then God declares his faithfulness, which is more than enough. Waltz-time piano eases us into the story, and the sudden addition of a wall of sound propels the story along, particularly as the driving drum beat punctuates God’s message of love and grace.
“Fountain” would be a solid addition to your baptism services, and closer “Found” continues the imagery of water washing our sins away, as it sends us out with triumphal lyrics and breezy, light piano flourishes.
The songwriting and production of I’ll Be The Branches shares aesthetic sensibilities with Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers, 70’s singer-songwriters from Elton John to Carole King, and contemporaries like John Mark McMillan. From the Mumfordesque opener “I Don’t Want To Go” to the Gospel-tinged “On The Banks,” we identify with the singer’s desire to wade into the water and follow wherever Jesus leads.
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Bobby and Kristen Gilles live together as husband and wife in New Albany, Indiana, part of the Louisville, Kentucky metropolitan region. They serve at Sojourn Community Church of New Albany, where Bobby is Pastor of Operations & Community Life, and Kristen is Director of Children’s Ministry and a worship leader on the Sojourn Music team. They write songs together and collaborate with leaders throughout the multi-congregation Sojourn Church.