After nearly ten years in the music business and given the success of his career, it was only a matter of time before Jeremy Camp returned to his worship leader roots and recorded a follow-up to his Gold-selling sophomore project from 2004, Carried Me. In fact, considering that Carried Me was originally intended to be Camp’s first release as a worship artist, you could say We Cry Out: The Worship Project brings him full circle.
Camp’s purpose for returning to worship music is to put the focus back on God instead of himself. It seems to me that most of his music has always been vertically focused, if not worshipful. There’s probably more truth to Camp’s other reason: It’s an excuse to rely on other people’s music, focusing on the songs that have meant the most to him in recent years.
We Cry Out is produced by Brown Bannister, which tells you plenty of what to expect as far as the sound—MercyMe styled pop/rock with occasional strings and perhaps a little more electric guitar. On the other hand, Camp has finally solidified a good band, as heard on 2009’s live album. In the studio, they offer a vibrant mix of guitars and keyboards over solid drumming.
All well and good, but is this a good worship album? To my surprise, it’s better than expected. Yes, there are some over-produced CCM versions of well-worn worship songs perfectly suited for radio. But overall, the album is a good mix of old and new, with accessible arrangements that make most of the songs congregational friendly. That’s about as much as you can hope for from most worship albums these days.
As over-covered as Hillsong’s immensely popular “Mighty to Save” is, Camp’s version is one of the better congregational arrangements you’ll hear (i.e. it’s as definitive as the original). There’s also a moving cover of Desperation Band’s “Overcome,” a very Hillsong-styled anthem that is powerful testament to how we overcome this life because Christ did so first. Camp’s version of Matt Redman’s oft-covered “You Never Let Go” closely mirrors the original, though it makes nice use of piano and dulcimer in the shimmering chorus. Really, the only disappointment among the familiar songs is a more upbeat and overproduced cover of Brenton Brown’s “Everlasting God” that strips it of its more distinctive qualities.
We Cry Out finds Camp collaborating with a number of well-known worship songwriters; interestingly, they all reveal more of the other artist’s style than Camp’s. Jon Egan of the Desperation Band co-wrote “Not Ashamed” and it sounds like what you’d expect—a bright Desperation or Hillsong United rocker as performed by Camp. Brenton Brown contributed to the title track and it sounds very much like Brown’s “Hosanna” co-write with Paul Baloche—good, but similar to so many other worship songs. Matt Maher’s way with melody is present in “You Are the Lord,” a rather bland, mid-tempo song with an inane Old-Testament inspired lyric: “For You are the Lord/That is Your name.” Strangely enough, the best co-write comes from Camp’s brother-in-law for “The Way,” featuring a dramatic chord progression in the chorus with a massive gothic-sounding choir reminiscent of Meatloaf’s music—it’s admittedly a very cool worship song.
Rounding out the album are four Camp originals, the best being lead single “Jesus Saves.” The song typifies modern worship in so many ways, but at least it’s a congregational friendly arrangement crossed with a radio-friendly sound. “King Jesus” is just okay by comparison, leaving a sense that it could have been so much more than a so-so declaration of Christ’s sovereignty that yet again relies on the “every knee will bow” passage. It’s still better than “Magnify,” the least interesting song on the album, and “Unrestrained,” which plays more like a traditional Camp song about deepening his relationship with the Lord.
We Cry Out demonstrates more of the same as far as modern worship goes, but it’s still and undeniably good effort with a fair share of highlights. Of course the album seems destined to be a major hit among today’s most fervent supporters of Christian music. I just wish it were more adventurous or creative with the style, songwriting, and song selection, bringing something new to the worship music genre rather than safely offering more of the same. But say what you will—Jeremy Camp’s heart is clearly in worship music and it’s yielded one of his stronger projects to date.
Standouts: “Jesus Saves,” “The Way,” “Overcome”