RATING: 4 1/2 Stars
Till The Sunrise isn’t strictly Southern Gospel and several songs don’t have an overt Christian message, so it falls outside the scope of the CDs I typically review here at MusicScribe. What caused me to reconsider was the producer, Michael Omartian. I’ve enjoyed Omartian’s instrumental recording Conversations for years, and his credentials as a producer are extensive. Southern Gospel fans who continued to follow the Imperials after their move to Contemporary Christian music may remember that Omartian produced several of their albums when they were at the height of their popularity. He also produced a few of Amy Grant’s albums, most notably Heart In Motion, the one that made her a pop star.
So as I expected, the production quality of Till The Sunrise is top notch. Every instrument is crisp. Everything fits. There’s always something interesting going on in the mix, but it never interferes with the vocal. In addition to being produced by Omartian, Till The Sunrise was recorded and mixed at The Sound Kitchen, a facility long noted for high quality standards.
Matt Brouwer’s voice is a little whiny for my taste on some songs, but his voice is dead center when it comes to acceptable standards for a pop recording. In addition to singing, he wrote or co-wrote all the songs and performed some of the background vocals. Some songs are personal and dedicated to his wife, some are in the slice of life vein, and others are songs about his faith.
There is one song with some Southern Gospel influences. “Thornside” starts with a pounding bass drum and a compelling guitar riff. I could hear the Crabb Family singing something like this. The lyric is inspired by the apostle Paul’s mention of a thorn in his side. It builds to a frenzy with a repeated lyrical motif, “free, free, set me free.” Good stuff.
Other tracks tend to run together for me, but taken individually, it’s difficult to find much fault. “Ocean” and several other tracks could play on Contemporary Christian radio.
Brouwer’s music reminds me of the sort of pop styles that were successful on CCM stations before the wave of rock bands and P&W driven lyrics took over the airwaves. Successful Christian singers like Michael W. Smith, Wayne Watson and Michael O’Brien recorded music similar to this fifteen years ago. Brouwer would be a refreshing addition to what I’ve heard on CCM stations recently.