"A City on a Hill Cannot Be Hidden"
A review by Phillip Newhart, jarchives.com
City on a Hill, the new praise and worship project from Essential clearly focuses its light on the loving giver of all good things... our Lord and Savior. Overall, this is a solid work, but standouts include cuts from Jars, Sixpence, and Mac Powell with Cliff and Danielle Young. These particular offerings not only share a prayerful grasp of God's majesty, but also serve a creative avenue for each artist to personally thank God for his own gifts of talent. This one to One appreciation creates pure emotion not evident in some other compilations. Save this album for times of meditation to focus on God, or for a focal shift from the day's hectic shuffle to holy renewal.
Jars of Clay's contributions, "The Stone" and "This Road" clearly draw from basic elements from Jars live performance. The percussion intro of "The Stone" mirrors the pseudo-apprehensive groove intro of Liquid on Stringtown and Front Yard Luge. Outlined differently from other Jars of Clay works, The Stone features Dan molding the song's theme through opening and closing choruses, but Steve gripping the core message with a prayerful solo... a personal definition of God.
Charlie's piano solos link each verse plainly, but stately, conveying a pure reverence. "The Stone" crescendos with uplifting harmonies which reach beyond the moment, but then closes with peaceful simplicity. I never knew what "ascribed" meant till I looked it up in the dictionary. :)
Even though it was written prior to their trip, "This Road" clearly symbolizes Jars' experiences on their recent missionary journey to China and Vietnam. "This Road" speaks of strength in persecution with a firm hold of God's grace... the daily emotions of persecuted Christians. The acoustic guitar/accordion intro sets a Scottish Highland folk mood, with almost a bagpipe feel. Stylistically "This Road" patterns Hymn from Much Afraid with its instrumental guitar/string/accordion mix and plea to God. The lyrics voice admission of total powerlessness without God's strength, though suffering in joy. Combining a choir with Jars' layered harmonies, the final two choruses add a strength of purpose in unity. The song ends with a string and accordion blend, closing in church bells.
And finally, the duet. Have you ever felt a worship song all the way to your toes? Leigh Nash and Dan's "With Every Breath" is an all encompassing praise song which fully acknowledges the fact God created all life... everything that has breath. Their paired vocals seem glass smooth, sliding from each statement toward its response. Building in strength with each verse, "With Every Breath" patterns a maturing Christian's journey, as God brings new revelations of His glory... but closes in restful praise. This is powerful stuff! I really didn't expect to feel such emotion from this project. It's art from the heart... and I truly believe God is listening!
City On A Hill releases August 22, 2000 from Essential Records