NEEDTOBREATHE has very quickly become one of my all-time favorite bands because of how they are able to move me with such amazing and spiritual lyrics that truly reflect how I feel as a Christian. This album is all about the restoration of the band when their drummer Joe Stillwell quit, a response to the overwhelming tension brought on by touring and being thrust into the limelight with his fellow South Carolina natives and lifelong friends, Bear Rinehart, Bo Rinehart and Seth Bolt.
Their story is chronicled in the documentary film, Prove the Poets Wrong, drawn from the lyrics of their song "Drive All Night." NEEDTOBREATHE is getting back to their roots with Rivers in the Wasteland, based on Isaiah 43:19 (NLT): "For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."
Listening to "Wasteland" to open the 11-song collection, it's clear that the themes of relying on God's grace and mercy and seeking and speaking truth flows throughout this excellent album, highlighted by several of my new favorite songs, "Wasteland," "Difference Maker," "Rise Again" "The Heart," and "Multiplied." You'll be hooked right from the opening notes of "Wasteland," which really sets the tone for this album. As Christians, we can all relate to the vulnerable and sincere crying out: "In this wasteland where I'm livin', there's a crack in the door and it's filled with light, and it's all that I need to get by." That prayerful sentiment is punctuated in the chorus: "Oh if God, is on my side, Who could be against me?"
Fans of the band's trademark high energy live shows will flock to "State I'm In," "Feet Don't Fail Me Now," "Oh Carolina" and "The Heart." "Feet Don't Fail Me Now" is an incredible ZZ Top-style catchy song, with the band's trademark high octane musical pacing, and the message of the song is an autobiographical expression of the band's musical journey.
"Difference Maker" is a gorgeous, moving and encouraging song about knowing that God's plan is far greater than any success or failure. It is about the beauty of grace and having faith. Christians are called to be difference makers and friends of God. I get choked up singing: "Isn't it amazing how God can take a broken man, and let him find a fortune and then ruin it with his own two hands, and he climbs on up the hill on the Rock on which he stands, He looks back at the crowd he looks down at his hands and he says I am a Difference Maker, I am the only one who speaks to Him, and I am the friendliest of friends of God."
The emotional and uplifting "Rise Again" frames an incredible song of hope. I love the chorus: "I know I'm on the rise again, set my sights on where I'm going, and my goodbyes to where I've been, Oh, I know, I know I'm going to rise again, saying farewell to the king of the broken, so long my friend." Bear's vocals are emotive and honest, which makes the words he's singing all the more powerful and moving.
"The Heart" is a wonderful foot-stomping, show stopping anthem, where the band's full on ability to write a hook and sing about deep meaningful topics is on full display. You'll be belting out the words with the band, "Long live the heart, long live the soul, that knows what it wants, that piece you can find, that part is the whole, it never lets go." What's so cool about the song is how "piece you can find" sounds like "peace you can find" and depending on your situation you can apply either homonym into the chorus which is pure songwriting genius.
Closing tracks "Multiplied," "Brother" and "More Heart, Less Attack" are all beautiful songs, musically and perhaps even more so lyrically, reflecting the album's wide range of sounds and emotional expressions. The lyrics to "Multiplied" are prayerful and moving: "Your love is like radiant diamonds, Your love will surely come find us, like raging wild fire, singing your name, God of mercy, sweet Love of mine, I have surrendered to Your design...these Hallelujahs, be multiplied." The takeaway message of unity to the band and for all of us is found in the moving refrain, "Be more heart, and less attack." It's that range of songwriting that sets this album on the highest level for me, and is why they are my favorite band.
Closing Thoughts (Staff Review, NewReleaseTuesday.com):
No matter your situation, this band has songs that can really bring healing and reflect the cry of your heart such as their Dove Award-winning songs, "Washed by the Water," "Lay 'Em Down" "Something Beautiful," "Slumber" and "Keep Your Eyes Open." As "Something Beautiful" reflects, sometimes we need to be on our knees in prayer and submission before God and cry out "Hey now, this is my desire, consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful." The band consistently makes songs that remind us to get to that place where we are in humble submission to God and don't play it safe but take a chance and ask for God to be real in our lives. You'll never see true beauty if you don't fully submit to God.
Rivers in the Wasteland is the best album I've heard this year. Every song is absolutely amazing. I can't get the catchy melodies of many of these songs out of my head. The album includes a solid mix of Southern rock tinged music with inspirational lyrics. Don't miss the standout songs "Wasteland," "Feet Don't Fail Me Now," "Difference Maker," "Rise Again," "The Heart," "Multiplied" and "More Heart, Less Attack." The very relatable and transparent words of these songs use poetic descriptions and biblical language throughout eleven stellar tracks, resulting in NEEDTOBREATHE's best album.