- Love That Has Won
- Battle Song
- Jesus, Precious Jesus
- The Wrestling
- Lord Most High
- Jesus, My Victory
- Awaken Us
- You Are With Me Still
Signed to Integrity Music with artists like Israel Houghton and Lincoln Brewster; Travis Ryan has been a worship leader at Saddleback Community Church for many years before he decided to make a studio album. As his debut album, Fearless, released on April 10th; I was able to take a glimpse at those who had a hand in the producing of the record, and was amazed at what I saw. With songs written by Matt Redman, Brenton Brown, All Sons and Daughters and Jason Ingram; Fearless was produced by Travis’ band-mate, Josh Auer (previously involved with rock group Pax217); mixed by Adam Hawkins, who produced albums for Switchfoot and Natasha Bedingfield; and engineered by Chris Testa, famous for his work with Mat Kearney and mainstream artist 50 Cent. Seeing all the producers and engineers attached to big names within the mainstream industry had led me to intrigue as I sat down to play this CD from 1 to 11, eager in anticipation as to what the final outcome would be. What resulted from Travis’ debut project are 11 worship songs sung by the sinner to the Saviour, the broken to the mender, from the clay to the potter’s hand. With a similar writing style to veteran Paul Baloche or Meredith Andrews; Fearless is a great collection of songs to play right in the midst of seasoned veterans, like Paul Baloche, Hillsong, and Delirious?.
‘Jesus, Precious Jesus’ is the first single of the album, collaborated with David Leonard and Leslie Jordan from All Sons and Daughters. Starting with a guitar riff and a big drum beat, Travis sings out one of the most rich lyrics from the whole album; ‘…this is what hope feels like, breathing in brand new life; the breath of Your lungs bringing us back to love…’ Reflecting upon these lyrics, I am refreshed to know that God gives us life unending, the reassurances we need as He brings us back to Himself. Diving into these truths and understanding that God wants to invest in our lives by uncovering and discovering our gems of gold that we sometimes try to hide for fear of judgement or misunderstanding; we are able to proclaim along with Travis and the symphony of music; including the nicely arranged keyboards and strings in harmony towards the end of the album. Joining Travis is a choir for the last chorus, declaring the lines ‘…Jesus, precious Jesus…You are our King…’ What a wonderful way to promote the album using a church-and-radio friendly song, reminding listeners God’s everlasting love for His creation!
With the second single yet to be picked, I am certain that ‘Battle Song’, ‘Lord Most High’, and ‘You Are With Me Still’ will all be potential candidates; each of them showcasing some of the most honest and emotional lyrics on the whole album. ‘You Are With Me Still’ starts with a keyboard riff and a snare drum beat as Travis places his ‘Matthew West’ hat on while he sings ‘…when all is dark and hope is gone, when silence has become my song…You are with me still…’; reminding me of Tim Hughes’ famous worship cry, ‘When the Tears Fall’. A similar theme of describing moments of need and assuring that the Lord is within the midst of our pain and struggles; Travis reminds us of the certain fact that God is always with us. ‘Lord Most High’ was co-written with Jason Ingram, also writing radio hits like ‘Pull Me Out’ (with Bebo Norman) and ‘By Your Side’ (with Tenth Avenue North). Showing musical and lyrical richness, ‘Lord Most High’ presents Travis crying out to the Lord, ‘…with each starry night, we’re reminded of your light, how You lead us safely home, never leave us here alone…’ With poetic imagery used in describing the Lord’s endless pursuit of His children, including the percussion that lets the song feel like a chase, with God pursuing and wooing His children back to Him; we are presented with the truth: He is the Lord most High and nothing will separate us from His love. ‘Battle Song’ is a spiritual reference, reminding a generation on fire for God that we are fighting a spiritual war. Grunging guitars explode this anthem into life, as Travis proclaims that Christians ought to hold ‘…nothing back Your kingdom’s advancing…love with abandon, we will keep marching on…’ Advancing the kingdom is our one priority, and ‘Battle Song’ certainly spurs me on to continue to love like Christ and further His fame and renown around the world. As we corporately and individually lift up the name of Jesus, His kingdom will move forward!
Travis introduces many thematic elements throughout the album, speaking to many people from all walks of life. Through percussion loops and strings, ‘Love That Has Won’ relays to us how we are forever transformed by the sacrifice of Jesus, proclaiming that ‘…Your love has won, we will sing salvation song…’ ‘Jesus, My Victory’ is an intentional melody that intimately speaks of our relationship with Christ as we partake in the ritual of communion; coming to an understanding of what Jesus did for us to be reconciled to Him. ‘The Wrestling’ is a reflective hymn-like piano-driven melody reflecting of God’s unrelenting and unending love for us, and as Travis proclaims the words ‘…Your ways are higher, Your thoughts are deeper, Your grace is stronger, how great is Your love…’, I am reassured that though we may not understand God fully, He knows what He is doing, and that is enough for us to trust Him with our lives. ‘Devotion’ is a pure-worship track about how we’ll forever sing our praises to the Lord, with guitars and gang vocals as Travis relays that as we are transformed, all we can do is shout and scream His praise, living out the difference He’s made in our lives.
Lastly are the title track, ‘Fearless’, and the 11th and last, ‘Chase’; both reflective as we see God’s pursuit for the lost, understanding His unequivocal love for humanity. ‘Chase’ is God’s pursuit of us, as Travis conveys, ‘…You chased us down with grace, You broke through our defence, we’re captured by Your cross and all the wonders of Your furious love…’ through the acoustic guitars and piano backdrop; Travis showing us how relentless God’s love really is. ‘Fearless’ is the partner to this song, that once we truly surrender to God’s infinite pursuit of His children, longing to bring us back to Himself; we can stand bold and fearless when we live out our lives during our daily lives. Reminding me of the line in Chris Tomlin’s ‘Our God’- ‘…and if our God is with us, then what can stand against…’; Travis brings to light the issue of spiritual warfare, declaring that when we are in Christ, nothing can sway our identity in Him; that ‘…though they rise up against us, our God is our fortress, He’s our strength…’ What a fantastic theme for the title track!
Overall: Travis has crafted an album that speaks to our identity, placing it in Christ alone, understanding the cost that Jesus endured for us to be called sons and daughters of God. With an acoustical backdrop filled with driving guitars and soft piano melodies, Travis has collaborated with some of the most prolific producers and songwriters in both the Christian and mainstream industry. This is certainly a must-buy album for reflective worship and bold proclamations that will certainly stir your heart as you are imparted with biblical truths. Well done Travis for a compelling album!
RIYL: Kari Jobe, One Sonic Society, Paul Baloche, All Sons and Daughters