John DeGrazio’s latest album, Stronghold, is a bit hard to describe because of its appeal to such a wide audience. Not that I would call this an everyman’s album but with the movement between strong strings, piano, and acoustic guitar these songs could be sung by church choirs with backing tracks, covered by hard rock musicians, and blared from bedroom stereos by teenage goth girls. Parts of it remind me of what I wanted from Jeremy Camp’s sophomore album while others I imagine live backed by an orchestra and industrial rock bands on a dimly lit stage with vocals bellowing much lower than they appear on the album. I’m reminded of Casting Crowns, if not in style or content but his ability to mix the reality of Christian life and the quality of good music. Simply, its a near perfect blend of CCM radio with honest lyrics portraying the joys and struggles of following God but with enough talent to keep music aficionados listening. From the first few notes of the title track and New Life I can tell that these are the songs that are going to be stuck in my head. So Much Stronger Now is the song I can hear twenty-somethings playing in their car in the parking lot after church, the kind of song I’d expect to hear on an independent film soundtrack. And worship songs like At All Costs and Lord Of Sacred Light kept me focused on God throughout my week.
I often describe our western Christian culture as lacking reality in what we talk about, the books we read, and the music we listen to. Often real world problems aren’t addressed or cliche answers are given about trusting in God’s plan (which IS what we’re supposed to do) but we sometimes avoid dirty words like pain, loss, depravity, and loneliness. And I feel that Christian music doesn’t always contain the passion when addressing our need for God. Instead we get watered down rock riffs, softly singing about a need that is supposed to be a dire cry pertaining to eternal life or death. If we had more artists like John DeGrazio maybe we’d be on a better path to showing the world that we’re not all fake smiles and side hugs but real people concerned about real issues. And, by the way, there is an answer.
You can pick up Stronghold at John DeGrazio’s website, iTunes, Amazon, or CDbaby.