Label : none

Release date: April 12th 2020

Track List

  1. Be Not Afraid
  2. 2.Of the Glorious Body Telling (Crux Fidelis)
  3. 3.Praise to the Lord, the Almighty 03:22
  4. I Heard You Call Out 03:14
  5. Downtown
  6. Call Me Ishmael
  7. Wounds I Choose
  8. Of the Glorious Body Telling (early version) 03:49

Peter JohnstonRVA- Be Not Afraid Album Review

Raw stripped-down guitar, authentic struggle, and Catholic imagery typically do not describe music in today’s scene. Yet that is exactly what you get in Peter JohnstonRVA’s debut album Be Not Afraid.

The opening track shares the album title. It opens with a light guitar melody, but what got me hooked was the vocals. I like the raw raspiness as the singer sings, “Be not afraid, not today Be not afraid, not today, be not afraid,” and during the chorus, “Some say it’s all over now It’ll never be the same again but the worst is not on us yet so let the future start today.” The vocal delivery gives a sense of urgency as if the singer himself needs to be not afraid. An important message for sure in times of uncertainty.

If urgency can be felt in the first song, the second song, Of The Glorious Body Telling, has a poetic whimsical feel. This is achieved by the backing vocals between each stanza. This song has my favorite introduction. The intro guitar coupled with the vocals on the first line, “Sing my tongue the glory of the victorious fight Sing of the noble triumph Our first father was defrauded into misery from the first fatal bite,” remind me of the stripped-down guitar of some post-grunge acoustic songs. Since the lyrics are based on a traditional Catholic hymn, the uniqueness comes from the musical arrangement.

Praise to the Lord, the almighty is the weakest song on the album, but by no means a bad song. It has a simple melody and as always a good guitar and drum backing. This is the kind of song I’d expect to a youth guitar Mass. The song is safe and marketable. If I was the record label, this would be the single for its mass appeal.

I Hear You Call Out makes up for whatever weaknesses this album has. I am a big fan when songs have the potential to have a double meaning. This song has all the trappings of a romantic pop/rock song, but it is obvious is a reference to the various different calls we read about in the Bible. The one that comes to mind for me is Isaiah 6:8,

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

The drumbeat, starting at the beginning and continuing throughout the song, makes the song delightfully catchy. It will get stuck in your head.

The next song, Downtown, is my personal favorite for its depiction of authentic struggle. Some new Christian artists are afraid of struggle. They are afraid it takes away from their call to be hopeful. Let’s be real, the Christian walk is not easy. Thus it was refreshing to hear the lyrics, “I won’t pretend to be the one, who’s sincere.“ I’ve always struggled with the sincerity of my Christian faith, so it’s nice to see that depicted in a song. Ultimately this song depicts the story of betrayal and dealing with the aftermath of a broken friendship.

I thought we were friends, it doesn’t feel that way I’m on my own more times than I’d like to claim

These lines hit especially hard for me. I’m no stranger to friendship betrayal. Not every song has to be explicitly about Jesus to speak the truth about the human condition.

“Call me Ishmael” is a puzzle box of a song, whose meaning is not outwardly obvious. The title obviously references Moby Dick, a book I’ve sadly never read. It also references the first son of Abraham, who was forced to wander around a desert after being banished by Sara. The chorus states,

“I didn’t know the time of day or even where I was It’s hard to be what you can be as you stare down a gun “

Taking the words literally, I think of someone being saved from suicide, yet I think the lyrics might have a more figurative bent. I think the gun is a metaphor for societal pressures that make it hard for one to work to their potential. I am happy that the lyrics are not your traditional cookie-cutter worship lyrics. I would like to see more lyrics like this in the future. Musically, this song has a bass line starting at 1:26 that transitions into a musical solo before the bridge on 2.06. These three notes separate it from the other songs on the album.

Wounds I Choose is the last original track on the album. As always I am impressed by the authentic struggle depicted in the lyrics. It’s reminiscent of the psalms that beg for deliverance from their disobedience. One stylist choice was to add a bit of an echo or reverb on the vocals. This choice makes the singer feel far or lost, which matches the song. Again there is some nice guitar work before the bridge. The lyrics are full of allusions to the Bible without being overly explicit or corny.

“A quiet voice has kept me in the game.”

Seems to call back to the story of Elijah and God’s still small voice.

Overall this album will appeal to those, who like their worship music to have a bit more authenticity and rock influence.

Similar artist: The Thirsting, and Jack Johnson

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