- There is a Kingdom
- O Love of God
- I Can Just Be Me
- Who is Like Our God
- God of Every Story
- Who But Jesus
- Keeper of the Stars
- You Gave Your Life
- He Will Not Let Go
Writer of famous worship song ‘Indescribable’ (covered by popular worship leader Chris Tomlin) as well as rising to popularity and fame for her frank, honest, vulnerable and revealing piano ballad ‘Blessings’; singer-songwriter Laura Story from Spartanburg, South Carolina continues to remind us of God’s faithfulness through songs of worship and songs of lament, and this is no exception on her most recent album God of Every Story. Signed to Fair Trade Services, the home of artists like The Afters, MercyMe, Audio Adrenaline, Phil Wickham and Sara Groves; Laura’s piano-pop centred ballads with messages of encouragement and vulnerable messages of love, acceptance, identity and thankfulness. Laura’s third label album is mellow and upbeat, heartfelt and fashioned for listeners of primarily CCM music. Nevertheless, this is an album where Laura’s vocals and piano shine through, and no matter what type of music listeners enjoy, Laura’s music, and especially God of Every Story will hopefully impact a wide variety of listeners who hear this music, either on the radio or on Spotify. As Laura unveils what the album means to her as a whole, about how we ought to trust ‘…that the same God who orchestrates the rising and the setting of the sun each day pays the same attention to every detail of my life [and that]…we will look back on this amazing God story that is my life and view it as a beautiful sunset, where the blues and reds, the laughter and tears, all meld together to show the faithfulness of God in a way that makes us stand in applause…’; I myself am able to rest assured in the confidence that God holds my own story and weaves it in with His to show His workings in every aspect of my own life and the lives of others. Arguably one of the most popular and respected CCM female singer-songwriters currently, this is a great purchase if you enjoy similar artists like Francesca Battistelli, Steven Curtis Chapman or Chris Tomlin. While not for everyone (not for those who adore heavy metal music…because you’re not going to hear the heavy metal if you listen to Laura’s album), God of Every Story still paints a picture of trust, surrender and freedom as we give our cares over to the One who’s willing and able to hold them.
Released to radio in August, ‘I Can Just Be Me’ is one of my favourite Laura Story songs ever. As the first radio single from the album, Laura invites us to see her vulnerable side through song, unveiling a melody that speaks to the heart of what it means to just rest in Christ and be rid of all the striving we can sometimes fall into the routine of doing. A piano led melody at heart, Laura’s passionate vocals are the key as she humbly declares God to ‘…be my Father, my mighty Warrior, be my King, cause I can be scattered, frail, and shattered, Lord, I need You now to…be my God so I can just be me…’; a message of surrendering all worries and stress over to God so that she in fact can be just what God created her to be. Relevant and at times confronting, as we look over our own lives at the areas where we’re striving and see if we in fact can give over our trials to God so that we can just rest at His feet; Laura’s first ballad on an album of many ballads, is a prayer we all need to realise is crucial for us in our walk with Christ. One of the strongest songs on the album, and also one of the standout songs of mine for the year in general, ‘I Can Just Be Me’ moves into both the title track and ‘Keeper of the Stars; (which was going to be the title track before ‘God of Every Story’ was added at the last minute), two of my favourite songs on the album and also two of Laura’s promotional singles prior to the release of the album.
With a piano riff playing in the background as Laura unveils stories and scenarios where God has been faithful to people in various circumstances, Laura makes the song even more personal and vulnerable through the heartfelt words offering thanks to God for the healing of her husband, and how ‘…Martin is thankful he’s alive; the doctors said he might not survive. That was seven years ago, what a miracle…’ Making the song personal is a great decision by Laura, and while it may not necessarily relate to everyone in terms of situations being either life or death, it does give us some perspective in the songwriting of ‘God of Every Story’ in particular. Showing a side of herself that maybe she hasn’t shown listeners in the past, the title track is a testament of God’s faithfulness throughout time and history, and personally, should be the second single after ‘I Can Just Be Me’. Initially going to be the title track before ‘God of Every Story’ was even written or conceived, ‘Keeper of the Stars’ is once again a keyboard driven song that invites listeners to give everything they have, even the hurt and pain, to the ‘…keeper of the stars, I won’t be afraid, cause You’re holding every part of this world…’ A song that gives hope to the hopeless and reminds us that trust and faith is based upon God’s promises and truth in His Word rather than emotions, feelings and what circumstances around us show; Laura’s invitation to exalt God in the moments that enthral us, as well as in the moments that leave us in a state of uncertainty, is what makes the song powerful and emotive to all those who listen and are impacted by it. Giving everything to God can be daunting, but Laura’s song hopefully gives us the encouragement we need to declare alongside her that ‘…when it seems impossible to me, Your promises are all true, what You said I know You will do…’ Well done Laura for these three songs, anchors, musically and lyrically, in an album that points directly to God our Father, keeper of the stars in the sky, as well as God over our stories, regardless of whether we believe them to be significant or not!
With each song firmly rooted and planted in worshipful experience, the primary focus by Laura is to lead listeners to a place of rest, worship, reflection and inward transformation hopefully through the inspiring words and encouraging messages portrayed in each of the songs on the album. Each melody in its own right earns at least a listen as Laura’s innate ability to take something uniquely personal and showcase it to be an inspiration to each of us is something that can’t be denied, no matter what song you hear on God of Every Story. Starting off the album with an acoustic pop melody ‘There is a Kingdom’ (complete with light glockenspiel), Laura longs for everyone to be alert and ready for the coming of Christ, declaring outright and boldly that ‘…there is a kingdom coming here tonight, we’re waiting, believing, our God is alive…’ A song that hopefully stirs within us the same expectation and longing that Laura sings about, ‘There is a Kingdom’ is a great first track that places the journeys of our own lives in perspective in the grand scheme of eternity. ‘Who is Like Our God’, possibly the most radio friendly melody and at times sounding ‘cliché’, is a nice addition, sandwiched between what will hopefully be two of Laura’s most famous hits throughout her career in ‘I Can Just Be Me’ and ‘God Of Every Story’. With light electric guitar riffs, Laura invites us to participate in a worshipful anthem that could possibly be sung in the church (I wouldn’t be surprised if it did end up being in the church at a later date). Laura reveals her reliance and trust in her Father and friend, and though the chorus can be lyrically something that has been done before, in the promise of ‘…who is like our God? Mighty in the battle, Your Majesty be lifted high…’; it does give us great emphasis of God’s power, strength and all-saving nature of Himself- it’s nice to be reminded of that again, even if it is in a song that won’t necessarily be as popular as others on the album (though I reckon this song will be ‘the single that never was’). A sole piano track in ‘Who But Jesus’ reminds us of the admirable qualities of God our Father as Laura declares with just the piano present the convicting words of ‘…who but Jesus, dwells among us, called this broken world his home? Took on flesh and pain and sorrow, reaping what He did not sow?…’ Though musically the simplest, it is often the simplest of tracks that unveils the most emotion and meaning, and as I myself hear ‘Who But Jesus’, I can also agree with the statements Laura puts forward in this song.
From ‘Forgiven’, a slightly upbeat and acoustic track about Laura reminding us (and herself) of God’s great forgiveness and how in ‘…every word and deed you are forgiven, He says to you, my child, you are chosen, you are loved…’, to album ender and another piano track ‘He Will Not Let Go’, written and sung as a hymn as Laura declares about God’s faithfulness in times of our much-needed security in Himself, and ‘O Love of God’, a lyrically poignant track full of guitars and layered vocals that lets us remember and retain the truth of God’s love for us and all mankind; it is when Laura humbly tries to convey the innermost parts of herself, as well as delving into the issues relevant to the hearts of mankind that she excels in her craft as a singer-songwriter. Enter in ‘Grace’, a re-recording from her 2008 album Great God Who Saves. Standing at a commendable 4 minutes 26 seconds, this piano ballad which sounds eerily similar to her original recording, provides a fresh and enjoyable melody with its central theme on grace, given from God to us and shown through this conversation between God and Laura through song. The heartfelt words of the chorus sung from the Lord’s perspective, that ‘…as long as you’re seeking My face, you’ll walk in the power of My daily sufficient grace…’; we are reminded that God’s grace extends infinitely towards us, and that even if we aren’t sure of His grace during certain moments of our own lives, we can know and be certain that regardless, God’s grace never changes. Despite the song written more than 5 years ago, the re-recording doesn’t feel out of place amongst the rest of the song, as the addition of strong electric guitars, light acoustics, strings and a continuous piano riff that underpins the musical aspect of ‘Grace’ is what propels this melody to be one of my favourite reflective tracks of Laura’s ever!
Overall: God of Every Story is indeed a collection of heartfelt melodies designed to evoke a message of God being the God of every moment in our lives, since before we came to Christ, to our daily walk with Him. Primarily a piano pop album, Laura’s soaring vocals and vulnerable singing style makes the album enjoyable as hopefully more listeners than the target audience will enjoy and be encouraged by these 11 tracks. Released on the same day as Steven Curtis Chapman’s album The Glorious Unfolding, Press Play’s #LITO and Hillsong Young and Free’s We are Young and Free, Laura’s third album truly shows her musical and lyrical craft, and cements her own place as one of the best contemporary CCM songwriters. From first radio single to last hymn-like song; this is an album to enjoy if you are into artists like SCC, Francesca Battistelli or Meredith Andrews. Well done Laura for such a poignant and enjoyable album!
RIYL: Chris Tomlin, Meredith Andrews, Steven Curtis Chapman, Francesca Battistelli