- Shake the World
- Love Stepped In
- Slip on By
- Hallelujah We Shall Rise
- I Am
The latest signing to the TobyMac owned label Gotee Records, Finding Favour’s debut EP Finding Favour EP that released in the digital outlets of Amazon and iTunes on March 12th is certainly one of my favourite EP’s for a while, since listening to Kate York’s album New and Tiffany Thompson’s album One Voice EP last year. Endorsed by singer-songwriter and Gotee Records co-founder and president TobyMac, his praise for the band, especially the first single ‘Slip on By’ is certain to peak the interest of many listeners who do listen to Toby, as we hear that ‘…once in a while you hear a special song that immediately takes you somewhere…it causes you to think and feel. And without preaching at you, it reminds you of the things that really matter…’ With the lead single anchoring the album as we are met with a melody that encourages us to make the most of our time and not let it slip on by, lead singer Blake NeeSmith and his vocal similarities to Dalton Diehl of Samestate and Jason Barton of 33 Miles has certainly created this album to be one of the most unique releases this year as we are given heartfelt songs that touch our hearts with encouragement and motivation. Incorporating a ballad-pop-piano prominent musical style, Blake’s ethereal and comforting vocals are great to listen to as we ponder the themes discussed on each of these songs. From the lead single ‘Slip on By’ to the pop anthem ‘Shake the World’ and the heartfelt ‘I Am’, sung from God’s point of view; Finding Favour’s debut EP releasing physically in May and digitally in March is certainly going to be a highlight during the next few months, and together with Steven Curtis Chapman’s Deep Roots, Audio Adrenaline’s Kings and Queens, and hopefully Kerrie Roberts’ Time for the Show and Hawk Nelson’s Made, one of the best albums/EP of the year so far!
‘Slip on By’ was inspired by Blake’s conversation with his own grandpa and how he was told not to waste his life and end up with regret, mistakes and what might have been, yet instead, Blake and every one of us are called to use our lives wisely here on Earth. We don’t want to wake up older and wondering that ‘…there’s so much I missed, oh how I wish I could get back all that time I wasted…’, and this song full of powerful vocals and a lively and upbeat keyboard sound leaves us with a conviction in our hearts about trying to live our lives better. Full of musical intensity as we watch as see how Finding Favour can write a song that has touched the lives of so many people throughout these last few months, Blake reminds us all not have regrets through this keyboard and strings centred song. With the song personally advocated by TobyMac and how it ‘…is one of those songs, it grabbed my heart and stirred some emotion in me that made me want to live differently…’; ‘Slip on By’ is one of those songs that ought to encourage us to live life differently. Emotional as we know we’re going to grow old someday and live with the decisions we make today, Blake’s hauntingly refreshing and reflective vocals are able to cause this song to be one of my favourite songs on the EP. ‘Hallelujah We Shall Rise’ is another highlight of mine, and while the song talks about our time on Earth and the end as we await Christ’s return, it is also somewhat encouraging to hear Blake declare what a wonderful day it will be, singing amidst the keyboards and percussion with his powerful and riveting vocals that ‘…it will be brighter than the sun, it will be darkness no more, what a day that will be, when we finally meet You Lord…’ While imagining our time on Earth and how it will end is certainly morbid, as Christians we ought to be excited about the day when we’ll finally meet Jesus. Praising Christ forever is something worth celebrating, and this song does exactly that. With great backing vocals to show this song’s great musical quality as it moves from CCM towards gospel during parts of the song and EP as a whole, Blake’s personal, powerful and personified message of praise and thankfulness as given myself a great song of hope and anticipation as we wait for the day when we rise up with the Lord, declaring hallelujah indeed. Well done Finding Favour for these two great tracks!
Both ‘Love Stepped In’ and ‘Shake the World’ are two great anthems that let us know of the grace given by God to us and the outcome of it, as we let the world know of the change that our hearts have received as we are inwardly transformed by His love and affection for us. Starting off with shakers and a ‘oohhh’ gang vocal, ‘Shake The World’ offers a great remedy to those who have been afflicted and distraught, as Blake declares that ‘…this is for my brothers trying hard to be a man, but that past you can’t forget sure makes it hard for you to stand, oh don’t you think it’s time to just be free?…’ to the beat of an awesome drum hook and powerful vocals. Reminding us of our identity in Christ and that as we grasp the love our Father has for us, what we know about our heavenly Dad is sure to create a ripple effect and ‘shake the world’ so to speak as we allow Christ to work in the hearts of those people around us that we converse with each and every day. A motivational message that lets us know that the song is not just for the all-together but also for the broken down and weary; it is a perfect way to start an album full of melodies of hope, remedy, poignancy and motivation. ‘Love Stepped In’, the second song on the EP, shows us that Christ does not discriminate, and that the preacher and the everyday man sharing whatever they have with the poor are all able to receive the love of the Father. As Blake offers us a few scenarios about how love stepped in and changed the lives of a variety of personas from all walks of life, the keyboard starts to play as the song hopefully begins to minister to our lives as we understand the enormity of what love can do, and if we let it, our outlook and focus will certainly shift from worry, hopelessness and uncertainty to hopefulness, excitement and anticipation. With these songs primarily upbeat, both ‘Love Stepped In’ and ‘Shake the World’ lead into an EP full of enthusiasm and encouragement, finally ending with one of my favourite songs on the EP, ‘I Am’.
Sung from Christ’s point of view, ‘I Am’ offers us great peace and comfort as we hear the lingering electric guitar riffs that seem to have been borrowed from David Crowder’s version of ‘How He Loves’ (not that I’m complaining, the riff seemingly fits on a song that similarly conveys Christ’s love for us). As Blake offers hope in the form of Christ giving us a reassurance that He’ll always be with us throughout every moment of our waking lives, some of the most heartfelt lyrics on the EP are sung, as we try to grasp and understand that ‘…I am the comfort when you are afraid, I am the refuge when you call my name, I was, I’ll be, I am…’ With Jesus asserting Himself as the comforter to all who need it and the healer of all our hurts and scars, this 3:16 song is certain to give us hope and peace as we bask in the knowledge of Christ’s everlasting love for each one of us. With ‘I Am’ being one of my favourite songs sung from God’s point of view in a while, the album ender will definitely change lives with the words sung through it. Well done Blake for one of my favourite songs on Finding Favour EP and one of my favourite songs of the year so far!
Overall: Releasing the physical copy of the album in May and it’s digital release in March, Gotee’s newest signing is sure to be my frontrunner pick for being the New Artist of the Year at the 2014 Dove Awards, just like how I think it’s a race between Rhett Walker Band, Lindsay McCaul, Moriah Peters and For King and Country for the same award at the 2013 Dove Awards. Signed to a label with other artists like Jamie Grace and House of Heroes, Finding Favour’s soulful music emphasis with a similar musical leaning to 33 Miles, Mikeschair and Newworldson will certainly garner fans who love ballad music with a keyboard and vocal prominence. From ‘Slip on By’ to ‘I Am’, this album is a joy for anyone who listens. Well done guys for the album, and well done TobyMac for endorsing one of the most unique and different debut EP’s since The City Harmonic and their album Introducing the City Harmonic!
RIYL: Jimmy Needham, Mikeschair, 33 Miles, Newworldson