SOUTHVILLE has earned a place in the history of aStepFWD’s UK Christian Chart as the first artists to have consecutive number one singles in the monthly Top Ten. This is quite an achievement, with the submissions going before a panel of music professionals, as well as being open to a public vote. There is clearly something about their “Freedom’s Tree” debut project that is captivating people.
There is much love for the concept behind this album. Sitting in a coffee shop in the beginning of 2016 some people had the idea of opening up the songwriting process to the whole church. For once this wasn’t just about the worship leaders or the professionals, but anybody from their church family could come and join in and share their ideas. The goal was to have 100 songs in 2016 and that is what they got. Then taking the songs, written collaboratively, back to the church and letting them hear them and give some feedback. You may have heard it before, but this really embodies the idea of the worship being songs for the church, literally, by the church! Along the journey, established worship leader Nick Herbert has helped these writers from this local church. From those 100 songs, 10 were recorded and for this album, “Freedom’s Tree”, which has been produced by K Collective and published by Elim Sound.
From the start this album is ‘Strong’, that being the title of the first track. Although, here, it is about the awesome power of God in creation, reminding us that not only did God create it, but He continues to be in it through us. The balance of music and vocal works really well with finger snaps and guitar with some striking chords reverberating between the lyrics before the main percussion and backing come into play. ‘Every Call’ is very much about God’s presence with us, remembering that what seems impossible to us, is more than possible for God.
There is a real emphasis in this part of the album, of God as creator, already seen in ‘Strong’, the emphasis continues in ‘Creator God’. This is quite controversial that we can still talk of God as creator, because often today we shy away from it because of the current scientific views that are accepted by those around us, and by many Christians, as fact. To speak of God as creator sounds a little bit naïve, but no matter your views of the early chapters of Genesis and Creation, it is an attribute of God that we must not ignore. It is great that this is so much front and centre on this album because it reminds us of the nature of our Father.
Much of this album is reflective, considering who the members of the Trinity are and what has been done for us. This is true of ‘Always’ and ‘Your Love’ which are beautiful songs of worship, one about God’s faithfulness and the other about God’s love chasing after us. There are scriptural references woven and alluded to throughout all of the lyrics, keeping these songs grounded in truth while allowing the worship to soar.
‘Valiant’ was the track that took the top spot on the UK Christian Chart in October. Where many of these songs have been more traditional worship tracks, this steps it up with a bit of a dance vibe breaking out. This is a song of exultation about Jesus as the champion in the crucifixion, but more importantly in the resurrection.
The November No. 1 and album title track, ‘Freedom’s Tree’, follow next showing the diversity of the album by the juxtaposition of dance and back to atmospheric worship. Many modern worship songs concentrate on the physical and spiritual aspects of the cross. Not many manage to capture the wonder and glory that the old hymns managed, but this track feels like it carries some great weight, initially a bit of a slow-burn but builds to a magnificent chorus.
Another switch comes now with ‘The Race’ that reintroduces a bit of a dance vibe that we had earlier, along with a very clear vocal. Then we cut back to a guitar backed vocal which tells the death and resurrection story with breath-taking wonder. Where ‘Freedom’s Tree’ carried the weight of wonder, ‘God Has Spoken’ captures the aching glory and despairing beauty of these moments.
The album rounds off with ‘Boundless’ which is an invitation for the Holy Spirit to fill us, but also to change us, revive us and overwhelm us. This upbeat song leaves you with expectation as we hit the end of the album. An album that has, it seems, intentionally set out the work of the Father, the Son and leaves us in expectation of the great things that the Holy Spirit will do in our lives.
You will love this album, as it captures something real and yet intangible and that is the nature of the Godhead, whilst at the same time being beautifully sung and produced. More importantly, these songs feel like they can easily be reproduced for local congregations. The songs are infused with scriptural truth which we need more of in our lives and the focus is totally on God!