- Remember This
- I’m Ok
- Better This Way
- Always and Forever
- Dead Man
- Not Forgotten
- All I Am Is Yours
Ryan Hunt is the type singer with the sort of voice you would see making it far on a show like America’s Got Talent. His musical style is straightforward and brought to life through a smooth and soulful voice which is set against acoustic guitar driven rock. Listening to Hunt’s sound, it’s easy to see why comparisons with Lifehouse and The Fray come immediately to mind. His pacing and points of emphasis harken back to the more somber moments of such bands, but have a certain flair added that is distinctly his own.
On the whole, Control is a look at life as it is and what it could be with God’s help. It addresses failures, hopes, and learning to trust in a God that won’t come and go, but will always be there. The sound, as portrayed above, is primarily driven by Ryan’s soulful voice and acoustic guitar. But, this is not an acoustic album. The sound is overall very much in line with Lifehouse’s later albums, Jon Foreman’s solo albums, and perhaps Jeremy Camp’s debut album. Therefore, the experience presented cannot be classified as “light” rock or pop, but rock that is just a little uptempo and evenly paced. Lyrically, the album is also very well rounded with deep and introspective lyrics that speak to the heart of so many of our fears, joys, and failures.
The album begins with the title song Control, an introspective look on our tendency to want to control God out of fear. Hunt sings, “I’m not afraid anymore, that You’ll come, that You’ll go. I didn’t see it before, but You hold on and You are everything that You said, now I know that I never had control.” As the opening track, the song sets a somber and reflective tone that is matched throughout the album.
“Remember This” takes the music and tone upbeat with a little more drums, background guitars, and a message that there has never been a day when we were not in God’s hands. “Remember This” is an uplifting and positive song with a message similar to Ryan’s “Let It Out” song from when He fronted Ever Green. The faster tempo and soulful singing, taken from God’s perspective, make “Remember This” a very radio friendly track that would also double well in a worship setting.
Perhaps no other song has more parallels to Lifehouse than “Moment.” From the instrumentation to the vocal patterns Hunt uses, the listener can easily draw lines back to the less pop influenced tracks on No Name Face, and a handful of tracks from Smoke and Mirrors. That said, I never felt like anything on this track was a rip off of their work, although the influence in styling cannot be ignored.
“I’m Ok” returns to a little more up-tempo radio-friendly rock, however it is followed immediately by “Circles,” which crescendos back to a more even paced and introspective styling. “Circles” is a resonating call out to God to “shine sunshine on me” through doubts and trepidation. In faith, Hunt proclaims, “Here I am, waiting for an answer, looking for direction, desperate for your voice. I’m so tired of running in circles. You show me the way and I’ll run through the door.” The guitar work and vocals on this song are really inspired and blend so perfectly that “Circles” becomes one of the better overall performances on the album.
“Better This Way” continues the somber and reflective tone set in several of the previous songs. It is followed up by “Always and Forever,” a song similar in many ways to The Fray’s sound. “Always and Forever” is a passionate and positive look at God’s unrelenting love that inspires man’s relentless pursuit of God’s heart. Lyrically, “Always and Forever” is masterful. “I don’t believe in a love that would run away. I said the words and I mean it… I’m not perfect, just in love with you.” That last line of the chorus is such a powerful and honest statement of our true place before God. The focus of Christianity is not perfected religion that saves… but in brokenness proclaiming, “I’m not perfect, just in love with you.”
“Always and Forever” is a great love song to God and certainly a highlight of the album. Ironically, the other song I would consider to be a highlight is the track that follows, “Deadman.” “Deadman” continues the deep reflective tone again, and focuses powerfully on those moments when we fail and “just for a moment the deadman lives again.” “Deadman” is made even more powerful by its placement on the album after “Always and Forever.” Where the first reminds us of where our salvation is truly found, the latter underscores why it is only our love relationship with Christ that can save us. No matter how we try, we all have moments where the deadman comes to life “just for a moment” to remind us the promise of Ephesians 2:8.
“Not Forgotten” continues this theme of forgiveness found in Christ alone. By looking through the lens of outcast children and the disenfranchised of the world, it is a promise to all those who have less than perfect records that “You are not forgotten, you are not alone. I have seen every tear that has fallen. You are not forgotten.” Musically, the track has a little more acoustic sound than the rest of the album. Vocally, Ryan gives a passionate performance.
The album closes with “All I am is Yours.” Where Control began with a look at our tendency to want to control God, “All I am is Yours” closes the album by laying everything down broken before Him. Being a worship leader, one could expect the most direct worship track on the album to be stellar. Ryan does not disappoint. Certainly, “All I am is Yours” is a powerful and moving song, perfectly fitting to any worship leader’s repertoire. More importantly for this review, however, the track is a powerful way to cap off a moving and well produced album that wrestles with God in passionate ways, only to fall reverent at His holy feet.
Overall: Ryan Hunt brings a deep and reflective discursive look at man’s failings and God’s powerful love. Though comparisons to the more somber stylings of Lifehouse and Jon Foreman are certainly there, Ryan forms a sound that that mixes in just enough of his own special something to be at once familiar and slightly distinct. Control is a well balanced album with deep and introspective lyrics that share passionate moments of both failure and joy. This is just the type of album for those days when you don’t feel like you’re enough, but still know that through it all, God still is.
RIYL: Lifehouse, The Fray, Jon Foreman, (Early) Jeremy Camp