Saturday, March 25, 2017

Aaron Shust: Love Made a Way Review


In 2005, Aaron Shust crashed into the Christian music scene with his Brash Records debut Anything Worth Saying. Featuring his #1 radio single “My Savior My God,” Aaron’s debut album won him three Dove Awards for New Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year. Since then, Aaron Shust has continued to release worship albums with songs for the church, and while praising His Savior is his first priority, Aaron has had a 12-year career filled with #1 singles and bestselling albums.

Long before he began his music career, however, Aaron was a worship leader at his church in Pennsylvania. This is what Aaron lives for – to lead people to Jesus in worship and praise. I have seen Aaron in concert several times, and it is evident that the accolade means nothing to him. His eyes look to heaven and his heart overflows as he sings with a smile on his face and gratefulness in his voice. Now, after 12 years, Aaron Shust releases his first live worship album with Centricity music, titled Love Made A Way. The live album features five of Aaron’s best known hits, such as “Ever Be,” “God of Brilliant Lights,” and, of course, “My Hope is In You” and “My Savior My God.” It also features six new solid worship anthems sure to become favorites of Aaron Shust fans.

AS1Love Made A Way is off to a fantastic start with “Heartbeat.” Synthesizers open the album, as Aaron softly sings “Only You can satisfy my soul/ Take my brokenness and make me whole.” As electric guitars and strong drums come in (played by Nate Beddingfield and Brandon Coker respectively -- Aaron’s live band), Aaron then sings “You’re my calm in my chaos, my peace in the war/ You speak in to the madness and tell me I’m Yours.” The opening track then builds fantastically by the chorus, stating that Jesus is our “every heartbeat, every breath that I breathe, You’re all I need!” Not only it is a powerful upbeat worship song and perfect opening track for the album, but it also contains a high level of excitement and celebration – Aaron’s goal with this album. As the track fades out, the beautiful high-scale piano sounds of “My Hope Is In You” begin with strong bass and drums to accompany it – so exciting! This live version of Aaron’s #1 radio single has strong supportive vocals and background harmonies added to Aaron’s already fantastic vocals, making it even more poignant than the recorded version on his 2011 This is What We Believe album!

Following is “Belong,” an original track that was previewed on Aaron Shust’s Youtube channel. With a slight disco tempo and rhythmic guitars, Aaron and the live crowd shout out that “I was made to belong to You!” Perhaps the most powerful part of this track is the bridge, which Aaron shared is his favorite part of the album as a whole: borrowing its lyrics from Ezekiel 36 & 37, the anthem shouts, “Take this flesh and bones, breathe Your life within! Take this heart of stone, make it beat again!” This track fades into Aaron’s radio single off of Love Made a Way, titled “You Redeem.” Co-written and also co-sung with Matt Hammitt (formerly of Sanctus Real), it is a track that has been like a breath of fresh air to me every time I have heard it. Its lyrics and perfectly matching music are incredibly moving and full of conviction – definitely the soundtrack of those going through trials in their lives and in need of redemption: “You redeem, You redeem/ You restore what’s been stolen from me/ You reclaim, You release/ You rebuild with the words that You breathe/ You redeem!” Words cannot say how beautiful and right-on this track is, especially as it has been for me personally. It’s no wonder that this song is already making an impact on radio!

“Ever Be,” Aaron’s chart-topping cover of Bethel’s modern worship anthem follows, almost the same as his original recording, yet it sounds even stronger with supportive background vocals and incredible bass. Next are two songs off Aaron Shust’s 2013 release Morning Rises. Beginning softly, but then turning into pounding drums and clapping from the live audience comes “God of Brilliant Lights.” Aaron actually intros this track differently than the original album, yet it sounds much like the “Morning Rises” intro on that album. He softly sings, “Come and break through the darkness” and “Your love is like an ocean” and then celebrates that “the God of brilliant lights is shining down over us/ breaking through the darkness, covering all the earth.” In the same key, deep piano sounds open up “Cornerstone.” Much softer than the Morning Rises version as it has an acoustic sound, this track was actually unrehearsed by Aaron and his band, but rather played spontaneously! This is almost unbelievable, as all instruments build in unison by my personal favorite stanza of the hymn the chorus is built around: “When He shall come with trumpets sounds/ oh may I then in Him be found/ dressed in His righteousness alone/ faultless to stand before His throne!” The result is breathtakingly beautiful.

Two originals follow, “Death Was Arrested” and “Resurrecting,” both containing powerful messages of the cross and the new life we have in Jesus. The first, “Death Was Arrested” is actually Aaron’s cover of a brand-new radio single by a new worship group Centricity Music recently signed, North Point InsideOut. Their drummer, Brandon Coker – also Aaron Shust’s drummer, -- is the one who created the concept for this track, containing a new way of looking at what Jesus has done for us – he arrested death and our new life began! Favorite of mine is the bridge where Aaron’s vocals unite with those in the background and the audience to sing and shout, “We’re free! Free! Forever we’re free! Come join the song of all the redeemed/ Yes, we’re free! Free! Forever, amen! When death was arrested and my life began!” Softer, comes “Resurrecting,” a cover of Elevation Worship’s song. It wonderfully depicts the glory of the resurrected King and what that looks like in our everyday lives, but like the preceding track, the bridge is its highlight: “By Your Spirit I will rise from the ashes of defeat/ The resurrected King is resurrecting me/ In Your name I come alive to declare Your victory/ The resurrected King is resurrecting me!”

And what would a live Aaron Shust album be without “My Savior My God”? This fan-favorite track features Christy Nockels for background vocals, and is a little more acoustic and laid-back than the original, yet is very strong. As its second verse prays, “Living, dying, let me bring my strength, my solace from this spring/ That He who lives to be my King once died to be my Savior,” this track has such a strength and a comfort to it – a peace that is surpassing understanding. The album then closes with a brand new track, “Lead On,” which brings Love Made a Way back to the upbeat note of the opening track – also with a disco tempo. A prayer that Aaron once prayed, “Lead On King Eternal. We will follow!” was put to music, resulting in this track -- a fantastic closing to his first live worship album!

I am a big fan of Aaron Shust and have been following all of his albums, yet Love Made a Way is a very special album. Containing five fan-favorites and six brand new tracks, each track carries excitement, energy, and strength. And while it is a celebration, the album focuses on the goodness of our Father God and the finished work of the cross, providing “strength and solace” for the listener. Well done, Aaron Shust!

Rating: 5/5
Release date: March 10, 2017

Track listing: 1. Heartbeat
2. My Hope is in You
3. Belong
4. You Redeem
5. Ever Be
6. God of Brilliant Lights
7. Cornerstone
8. Death Was Arrested
9. Resurrecting
10. My Savior My God
11. Lead On

Enjoy the official music video for "You Redeem" featuring Matt Hammitt (formerly from Sanctus Real) and Jonathan Dimmel from Satellites & Sirens!

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