Review: Steven Curtis Chapman – The Glorious Unfolding

Steven Curtis Chapman - The Glorious UnfoldingPain and heartache are unfortunately a part of life on this side of eternity. We all make mistakes, let people close to us down, and suffer through the consequences of poor decisions. We get hurt, sometimes through the evil of others and sometimes through simple, yet mind-numbing acts of Providence. People die and we grieve. Along the way, in our pain and grief, there are many voice that will reach out to us, telling us it will be okay, that tomorrow is another day but so many of those voices ring hollow as they truly haven’t walked through this pain and we feel lost, looking for direction and someone to understand.

Longtime artist Steven Curtis Chapman wells knows of the heartbreak that life can bring as evidenced in the sudden death of his young adopted daughter, Maria Sue, five years ago in a freak car accident. That well documented tragedy shook the Chapman family to the core, cutting deep and leaving its scars. Yet, through it all, the family held tight to their faith, drawing strength in the hope and love found there.

Chapman’s latest, The Glorious Unfolding, is his first studio album of all-original material in seven years and tackles deftly tackles the heartbreaks of life with honesty while providing the remedy for that pain through a lived in faith that Chapman’s life resonates with. Brent Milligan is along for the ride as co-producer and the two have crafted a record that sits squarely in Chapman’s wheelhouse, big, bold acoustic pop flavored sounds, while drawing some renewed energy from bold percussion and synth fills along the way.

The title track lays the heartbeat of the record out in its first verse as Chapman sings over piano and synth-tinged opening, “Lay your head down tonight/Take a rest from the fight/Don’t try to figure it out/Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart/’Cause I know this is not/Anything like you thought/The story of your life was gonna be/And if feels like the end has started closing in on you.” It’s a refreshingly honest appraisal of how so many feel at various times and Chapman doesn’t shy away from the pain while reminding listeners to hold fast, encouraging them, “So let us remember this life we’re living/Is just the beginning of the beginning.”

“Take Another Step” carries this same lyrical heartbeat while chunky percussion and touches of moody piano lead the way into a rousing chorus. Chapman offers up more lyrical nuggets, singing, “We walk by faith and not by sight, we know it’s true/We say it and sing it and love the way it sounds/But not of us can even begin to truly understand/What it really means ‘til all the lights go out.” And as one who has walked through the fire, Chapman has the courage and the platform to declare that we’re “Something Beautiful,” filled with some Crowder-esque programming notes and acoustic guitar, and that God will “Finish What He’s Started” with its rising background chorus and big drums courtesy of Chapman’s son, Will Franklin.

Chapman takes things a different direction on “Only One and Only You,” a song written for his teenage daughter, Shaohannah, engaging a solo piano together with sweeping strings in a lovely father’s tribute while “See You In a Little While” honors the artist’s grandmother who he recently lost. It’s anchored by piano, the instrument of his grandmother’s that Chapman first learned to play on, and is buoyed by more strings and tasteful acoustic guitar. And as “A Little More Time to Love” and “Sound of Your Voice” lyrically capture the artist’s heart to serve others and follow his journey of faith, album closer “Together” is sweetly poignant, a love song to his bride of nearly twenty-nine years. It’s subtle, strings and piano flowing as Chapman sings right to his wife, the testimony of a faithful marriage resounding.

Steven Curtis Chapman has been through the fire and emerged with his share of scars. He shares his understanding of that pain, offering empathy and a listening ear, and tempers that by sharing the reason for his hope and trust. The album is interestingly energetic and bright, something one might not expect from one who’s lost so much but as Chapman sings on the moody, bluegrass-tinged “Feet of Jesus,” “In the arms of Jesus, I will find my peace and rest/I hear Him calling, come to me and rest/Carried by my Shepherd, cradled tightly to His chest/There and there alone, my soul finds rest.”

And, on The Glorious Unfolding, Chapman invites you to do the same.

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