Sometimes life leads us into a dark forest. Deep-rooted trees of anxiety, depression, addiction, and hardship crowd the path. The canopy leans in, blocking out the sun, leaving us to walk in deep shadow. The air is thick, and it seems hard to even breathe.
Libby Lewis has walked this path, once as a weary traveler, now as a pathfinder for others. Her song Breathe Over Me was written, along with David Camden Mueller, to start healing the wounds of such a journey. It is a musical prayer to restore her breath and resurrect the joy she lost along the way.
She says, “There have been too many moments when my anxiety was so bad, I could barely catch my breath. It felt like all the pain of my past was sitting on me like a ton of bricks. This song has been a source of healing for me, as I hope it is for you.” For Libby to share her struggles and compose this prayerful song belies an inner courage and hope in God’s grace and healing.
Breathe Over Me is inspired by Job 33:4 “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” This declaration by Job is reflected in the chorus, “Breathe over me, breathe over me, until my spirit breaks free.” The next line in the chorus then makes a powerful statement: “I am loved in my brokenness. You lift me up when there’s nothing left.”
Those who sow in tears, shall reap in joy. Psalm 126:5
In verse one, Libby follows Jobs’ example of not dwelling on the trees crowding the path, but declaring that with fear and hardship and loss, God wraps his arms around us. Something easily forgotten in the midst of the journey. Verse two starts with, “Like the deer longs for the stream,” a reference to Psalm 42:1. She follows this with a plea for assurance and for God to draw near when our own strength fails.
The bridge repeats the line, “You give me joy in the lowest place,” with a finishing line of “Come fill me up, come fill me up.” There is room here to explore the concept of joy in hard times, as opposed to repeating the same phrase within the stanza since the bridge as a whole is repeated as well. Some repetition is always welcome, but here I think it could use an additional line to expound on God giving us joy even when we are low.
The open musical pallet Libby uses serves the song well. It starts with a haunting piano, backed by tumescent guitar swells, accentuating the prayerful theme of the song. There is depth in the synth pads that pair well with the layered arpeggiations that duck in and out of the mix.
Libby’s vocals are strong and the timbre of her voice accents her emotive style. Her discipline to stay within the melody shows her maturity as a worship leader to lead in a way that people can follow; something that is all important in the worship setting.
The song is accessible for all church types. It uses a base chord structure of Dm-Bb-C, with an F/A in the latter half of the verse and chorus as a substitute for Dm. This structure offers some tonal variety without sacrificing playability for less experienced musicians. The chord structure remains constant throughout, which brings consistency, making it easier for worshipers to learn and connect with the tune.
Production by independent artists can vary, but the production by Ryan Smith on Breathe Over Me is solid. Although heavy on the airy and open instruments and effects, the overall result serves the emotive feel of the song. The acoustic drums bring an organic texture, which is needed given the ethereal tapestry. Some additional acoustic instruments would give the song even more grounding, but what Libby has done is very effective.
As a new artist, Libby has clearly done the work to put out a solid song in both craft and production. Her first offering shows courage to be authentic and displays a heart for healing. She will be a worship artist to keep an eye on in the future.
An authentic and healing worship song.
Let’s see more soon.
Note: Libby Lewis is affiliated with Worship Leader as she works for GTMA, which holds ownership in the parent company. This affiliation, however, did not reflect in any way in the assessment, critique or review of her work.
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Christopher Watson is an author of six books, both fiction and non-fiction. He is also a musician and composer with a B.A. in Music from Azusa Pacific University. For several years Christopher led worship at The Springs Church while attending Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas Texas. He's been involved with worship in a number of churches in California and the Pacific Northwest both as a musician and in production and technology. Now he lives and writes in Washington State with his amazing wife, wonderful daughters, and highly intelligent dog, Ellie Mae.