I always look forward with expectation to recordings from certain favourite artists who are known and respected. This past week I was able to listen to such an album from Matt Maher.
His most recent studio project, “Echoes” (Essential/Sony) is based on the idea of echoing our faith, both back to God in worship and to the world around us in love and service.
After the recent passing of his father, Maher became very conscious of his choice.
“Jesus chose to respond to death by embracing it,” he says. “By embracing it, He destroyed it. This record became, for me, my response to sin and suffering. I had to formulate my own echo. I had to decide if I was going to echo the message of the cross back to the world or my own narrow view of suffering.”
Another echo found in this album come from several traditional hymns of the faith that inspired several of Maher’s tracks.
“So many of the hymns that inspired these songs were written by people experiencing their own profound suffering. Also, I like stealing words from dead people,” the singer/songwriter jokes.
In speaking of the classic, “Just As I Am” by Charlotte Elliot, Maher says, “One of the most popular hymns in the Baptist hymnal was written by a woman who was going through a deep, existential crisis about the existence of God….That doesn’t sound like something from 1835, it sounds like something from 2017.
“She wrote those words, ‘just as I am, without one plea, but that your blood was shed for me,’ while experiencing painful doubt. You can’t separate her suffering from the truth of the song.”
As I listened to the tracks on “Echoes” (Deluxe Edition) I became deeply aware of the truths embedded in Maher’s music. This project opens with “Clean Heart”, an acoustic and joyful tune: “When everybody’s looking for another fight/ When trouble’s on the rise, no end in sight/ Oh Saviour won’t you come and make the wrong things right/ Let me be the place you start/ Give me a clean heart.”
“What a Friend” borrows its title from the traditional hymn, but the musical resemblance ends there. A boisterous number, Maher sings about the joy of our friendship with the Saviour: “What a friend we have in Jesus/ East to west my sins are gone/ I see grace on every horizon/ And forever and ever His heart is my home.”
“Faithfulness” speaks to God’s goodness and unchanging love. “Picket Sign” compares the cross to a sign that announces the truth of the gospel to passersby.
“As Good as it Gets” is a beautiful play on the common phrase: “But you take my eyes off of the future/ You lead
my heart out of the past/ You are the promise here in the moment/ Where I find my rest/ You are as good as it gets.”
As he usually does, Maher takes his listeners through passionate worship, joyful praise and reflective contemplation with his songs.
“Echoes” is a wonderful album that truly reflects the heart of the artist.
Tracey Evison, a musician and educator on P.E.I., writes this column for The Guardian every second Saturday. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.