ROSS KING – THIS HOPE WILL GUIDE ME

This_Hope_Will_Guide_MeIt’s here! Ross King’s This Hope Will Guide Me is released and it’s time for the world to hear these songs! I originally intended to do a song-by-song review, but I struggled with that format. Sure, I could have done a track-by-track breakdown of each song, but this record deserves a little bit more than that.

Why? A few reasons:

#1. Ross is my friend. He’s worked very hard on this project and I have a tremendous amount of respect for his music and ministry.

#2. I co-wrote two of the songs on the record. I’m a small part of this project and I’m very proud of it.

#3. Because I care a great deal about church music. The church has gone too long singing bad songs and this record gives me hope. It reminds me that the people in the trenches of local church ministry are loving people enough to write good songs for them to sing. This record reminds us that, when it comes to the songs people sing, integrity matters a great deal.

That’s why, instead of trying to describe these songs, I’m going to tell you WHY I think churches should be singing it.

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WE WILL REMEMBER – Psalms has a lot to say about remembering (and recounting) God’s faithfulness. Yet, it seems churches have lost this aspect in their congregational gatherings. Churches should do this song because it is a confident remembering. God has done great things in us and for us and there’s no better motivation for singing his praise. This song gives drummers and electric guitar players the chance to turn it to 11 and play their guts out. Your keys/piano folks will dig the intro line and your singers will have a blast finding parts in the huge, syncopated chorus.

HALLELUJAH FOR THE CROSS – Yes, there are lots of songs about the cross. So why is this one different? Melody and arrangement. And death. First, Ross has managed to write a beautiful melody that doesn’t get lost in the tempo of the tune. It’s not fast, but it is powerful. The song occupies a unique place of being a hymn that sounds like a modern-rock anthem. I don’t know how they did it, but it’s pretty incredible. Lastly, the song focus on that thing that worries a lot of us – dying. You’ve got people in your church who are freaked out by death and the third verse is a crystal clear reminder that the cross will guide God’s children into death – with joy!

YOUR KINDNESS KNOWS NO END – You know why people like Mumford & Sons? It ain’t the suspenders, believe me. Why do the Foo Fighters sell so many records? Great hair? Nope. There’s something those two groups share in common that most of us don’t realize. Thankfully, Ross King knows what makes those artists create such compelling music – DRIVE. This song isn’t a big rock ballad, and yet it carries more energy than most of the rockers you would play on a given Sunday morning. This song is a clinic on how a band can build a contagious musical drive without resorting to excess. That’s why you should do it in your church.

SIN IS POWERLESS – If you’ve ever had a congregant say, “all the songs sound the same,” you’ve probably been a bit perplexed. How can somebody have that perspective when the melodies and tempos and arrangements are all different? Track 4 on the album reminds us that there’s a secret to good songwriting that lots of artists can’t do: phrasing. Ross has an uncanny ability to phrase his lyrics. His stuff doesn’t sing like every other song; it sings better. Your vocalists will love singing this chorus. But it’s more than just phrasing. I also love that it’s a song about having victory over sin through Jesus. We sing a lot about the punishment of sin and our subsequent rescue, but we don’t say a lot about living in victory over sin’s power.

MY ONE RESPONSE – When I first heard this song, I thought, “Oh, okay. This is more of a singer-songwriter tune. Definitely not worship.” And then.. the chorus hit. This song is still surprising me in how it so perfectly rests between a prayerful, folk performance and an instantly singable worship chorus. The verses are these beautiful, poetic pictures of what actually exists in the life of sinner saved by God’s grace and the chorus is a natural, honest response to those truths. This song is perfect for churches with new believers or people investigating Christianity. I don’t think you could explain God’s grace any clearer than this song does.

EVERMORE – Once again, we see Ross and his production team crafting a nuanced musical approach. There’s no predictable, power chord/open high-hat chorus here. Rather, this song finds its power in a rock solid groove. In fact, your electric guitarists wouldn’t mind picking up an acoustic for this one. (The guitar hook is cool.) I’ve long hoped the world get a glimpse of how much soul Ross King has when it comes to music! Now it has happened!

LOOK AND SEE – Gonna’ go ahead and admit that I didn’t like this song at first. Ross sent me an early version of this co-write and it didn’t really work for me. I’m still not sure why. But since that time, I’ve been convicted about the lack of “big” songs in our churches. I’m not talking about volume or rock and roll – I’m talking about God’s “bigness”! I’ve come to see and feel that vacuum, I realize that Ross has created an amazing song that does just that! Consider me a fan now! Hard to beat the chorus on this one, gang.

TO MAKE YOU KNOWN – The first thing that struck me was the chord at the end of the verse lines. It was an unexpected turn that should have warned me right then what a great song this is. You might be tempted to skip this one at first, but DON’T. The chorus melody is so creative, you won’t be able to stop singing it. This arrangement is perfect for praise bands – your backing vocalists will love singing this chorus and your drummers will dig the drive.

WIN MY SOUL – You’re gonna’ think this is an old hymn. It’s that good. I think the melodic turn in the last line of each verse is genius. This is an anthem deserving to be sung in a huge room of people who love Jesus. It’s got great power without aiming for speed or busy-ness. Teach your congregation this chorus!

BECAUSE HE LOVED ME FIRST – Once again, Ross has merged his skills as a singer-songwriter with his calling as a worship pastor.  This song would be a beautiful performance piece for Easter services – the longing, grateful tone is a perfect fit for such a thankful worship chorus. It’s also a good project for bands – a song without a drumbeat!

DEATH IS OVERCOME – I’m a sucker for big, open straight ahead songs like this one. In fact, this may be my second favorite track on the album. The spacious groove and immediately singable chorus set up one of my favorite lines I’ve ever heard sung about God – You’re never scared away / You’re never pushed around / Nothing is strong enough to make You move. YES! AMEN! SING IT!

FREE THE WORLD – My absolute favorite track on this album. I don’t use the word “missional” all that much, but I will tell you that Ross King may be one of the most missional guys I’ve ever known. In this closing song, he manages to center lyrics on the Father and somehow find a way to challenge God’s children to action. We spend a lot of time singing about what Jesus has done for us, but we need more commitment songs like this. And the guitar riff is pretty great, too.

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Go buy this record, y’all. It’s worth way more than 10 bucks.

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