Will Retherford – Awake [Review]
Not too long ago, you will remember that I did a review on the Blog about a new worship album from Matt Reed. Well, Matt emailed me the other day and asked If I would be able to review an album a good friend of his, Will Retherford. I of course couldn’t turn down an opportunity to engulf myself in a new worship album. So I agreed. Before I review the album itself, I wanted to share a little about Will, and who he is.
Inspired to pursue music at a worship concert, Will Retherford has passionately honed and shared his gift since he was a young teenager. Today, he not only writes his own music, but also leads worship at Oral Roberts University. A junior at ORU, Will hopes to someday combine his talent as a singer/songwrit er with his major in marketing.
More than music, Will is also passionate about missions. He is on staff with the Oral Roberts Missions department. Will is also working to purchase supplies for a children’s home in India through the sale of his first album titled “Awake.”
Now that you know a little bit about who he is lets discuss the music. Musically this whole album seemed reminiscent of something like a cross between Gungor (which, come on, is awesome) and Switchfoot. In fact, at various points on the album, I thought I was listening to Jon Foreman.
This album has a few songs that are easily singable and great for a congregational setting. The opening track, Image is one that would fit well in the church setting. When you listen to it, it can seem a little intimidating with the complex fingerpicking on guitar, the xylophone, and the horn section, however if you just listen to it lyrically and follow the main melody, you begin to see a simple song that allows the listener to bask in the beauty of being made in the image of God. It calls us to rise up and sing to God because he is seen in all he has created.
He transitions this into Fill our Hearts which features Lisa Gungor. This is a song that some churches could do in a worship setting, but others would find hard. Musically it is a simply uptemo song with a driving acoustic guitar and a steady drum beat. However, there are a few points where Will’s lyrics seem to speed at you like a freight train. This is most evident in the second verse. It wasn’t a problem for me, however in a congregational worship setting, I could see some who do not like it because it may feel like they are rushing through the song. Lisa Gungor adds great vocal backing as well her phenomenal skills in the piano. I love how the last minute of the song, they are simply singing “Fill our Hearts” but it builds to a major crescendo. Then it drops back to just the piano with a soft percussion that fades away as the song ends.
The title track off of this album, Awake is one that I really like. It was an intense song that had phenomenal dynamics. It really ebbed and flowed and drew you in deeper. This is something I have been trying to teach my team the past few weeks, and that might have added to love for this song. This song is more of a body ministry song, it calls the believer to awaken, and it encourages them of their identity. Becuase of this, the song really ministers to you on a personal level, but might not be one you use in the congregational setting. Musically it relies heavily on a fingerpicking pattern that is just beautiful. But then other things like the drums and the electric guitar come in and out as needed to help build the song and draw it back down.
Though I fall actually hooked me at the intro before Will had even began singing a single word. It has very simle soft picking on the acoustic guitar, but behind that there is a smooth ethereal electric guitar that is floating on some volume swells and it sounds great. This song is a short Lyrically this is a song that is easily sung. The primary line of the song is simply “Though I fall, I will stand again. Though my troubles will not end, I won’t forget the Love in your scarred hands.” This would be a great transition song in a church setting to help you move from one into another, but it is a short song and thus really would need to be paired with something else to fit well into your setlist.
I love how will sets the mood for his next song No Words. It begins with a simple strumming pattern on the acoustic guitar and xylophone to give you a much more reserved, relaxing feeling. Will sings this song with a little extra breath in his lungs to give it a more withdrawn feel that draws you into the song more. The song is a declaration of love for the Lord. Professing our desire and our love, and our sheer need for him. As the song progresses it builds into a bridge that has a harmonica, banjo, and Will and friends simply singing “Whoa-uh-oh…. whoa-uh-oh.” to the end of the song. used the term Will & friends there strategically because this song reminded me of something I would head Benjamin Dunn & Friends doing. It would fit well into their style. While this might seem like a song that is not a strong candidate for congregational worship, I would actually place it near the top of that list. The simplicity of the song, both musically and in its message make it a great fit for the church.
Hope is perhaps my favourite song on the album musically. It begins with a very fast piano pattern with some soft violin. Its almost a dichotomy between the two. Because the piano feels fast like it should be a driven song, but the violin keeps you down in the softer and slower worship end. The tension adds something unique to this song. The song sings of the darkness of humanity without the lord. However the song speaks of the Hope that comes when Jesus comes. It shows the glory of his arrival and asks him to grant us peace.
Will closes this album with one more catchy song Beautiful Feet is from the scripture from Romans 10:15 that speaks of the beauty of the feet of those who carry the gospel. It is a missional call out to God to send us into dark places in the world as a lightbearer. This is a song that would fit well int he worship set of a missional church, but it is a song that is focused on us, and our call to be a light. So some might find it too man centered. It personally love the song and it gets me pumped, especially in the instrumental interlude where the song builds and builds and then the voices come in simply singing “I Will Go” before one last run through the chorus.