2009 was a banner year for upstart Irish worship band, Bluetree. With their big hit “God of This City,” inspired after seeing the conditions of the poor on a trip to Thailand, riding high, particularly after being recorded by praise and worship superstar, Chris Tomlin, the sky seemed to be the limit for the group. Yet, just as quickly as they had hit, they seemed to flare out, despite the release of another studio record and a few live projects. Personnel have come and gone but, with lead singer and founder Aaron Boyd at the helm, the band has pressed on, now signed with Integrity Music, and is back with their latest, Worship & Justice.
The impetus of the record continues with the same heartbeat heard in “God of This City,” seeking to reconcile the idea of how to bring, and be, God’s hands of worship and justice in the world.
Speaking to this theme, Boyd shares, “I think the church finally understands that our entire lives are an act of worship in the Kingdom of God. When we sing on Sunday mornings, that’s an expression, but when we go to work, when we go to school, when we are smuggled into a country to go and encourage the underground church, or minister to prostitutes—that is all an act of worship, individual to God. We carry it everywhere we go…. Understanding that when we love God and we love our neighbor, we understand that worship is justice.”
Harnessing that passion, Boyd and company offer up ten vertically aimed tracks, featuring four new songs and six reworked tracks from the band’s prior efforts. The resulting album is one that works well for both corporate and private worship, a rare feat among many worship recordings.
One of the key selling points to the music of Bluetree is Boyd’s keen ear for songwriting and here he continues to showcase those solid chops with the modern hymn-flavored opener “It Is Finished” or the radio ready “Jesus, Healer,” somewhat reminiscent of Chris Tomlin’s “Jesus Messiah.” The rousing energy and powerful truths of “My Redeemer Lives” are equally sound but it’s with “Each Day” that the whole package comes together in its best form, offering up a powerful lyric alongside an arrangement that truly induces goose bumps.
And that’s the one thing that, if one were to pick, seems to be in somewhat short supply here. Tracks like “My Redeemer Lives” and “Each Day” set the bar high with a soundscape equal to the lyrical prowess and while Bluetree tries, their overall sound tends toward something more mid-tempo and middle of the road, never quite harnessing their energies to take it to that next level. That ends up seeing listeners offered up a collection of songs that are good but not quite great.
But for fans of Bluetree and for those to come, this band still has plenty to offer. Their servant hearts and willingness to address the very topics of worship and justice speak volumes about who they are and while this latest album might falter on occasion, it still has plenty to offer to an open ear.