There are times when the opening refrains of an album promise great things to come. The first time I popped in Canadian worship artist Joel Augé’s debut solo album On the Blue an irrepressible grin took possession of my face. The howling love song composed to Jesus – “So Deep in Love” – captured my heart, and promised a great album – a promise that has largely been fulfilled.
Far from being a newcomer to Christian music, Augé has been performing and recording since 1999 with other bands. His debut album reflects his calling as worship leading, offering up what he calls ‘vertically inspired’ songs – straight from his heart to God’s. With the majority of the offerings on the album flowing from his own pen, the blending of straight-up praise and worship songs is carefully enhanced by the frequently sparse acoustic accompaniment of each work.
Augé terms his style ‘art-rock’ – I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the label, but I’m impressed with what he does. Strong folk influences are felt throughout with his simple guitar picking and rhythmic cadences. However, punchy, upbeat tunes with electric guitar, bass, keyboards, and percussion are also present making up the backdrop for the rock-inflected songs.
It’s hard to pick favorites from the disc; nearly each song is excellent, though some suffer from awkward or seemingly irrelevant lyrical phrases at times. While listening to the disc my husband even mentioned periods where the lyrics weren’t as strong as they could have been. Hopefully as Augé matures in his song writing these slight glitches will be resolved. The overall strength of the album clearly overwhelms these ‘off’ moments.
Like most worship albums, the first half of the album is geared towards the upbeat, rocking songs of straight-up praise. “So Deep In Love” is a clear winner, while “Even the Rocks” evokes images of irrepressible worship and ties in with scriptural images. “Every Heart” casts a vision for the time when we’ll all surround the fallen and risen Lamb in singing His praises – beautiful.
The second half of the disc is clearly the folk-inspired, acoustic collection of worship songs – it’s much more laid back, subdued, and even bittersweet. “On the Blue” is an atmospheric exploration of being in unexplored waters with only Jesus to cling to and “I Am Here to Praise You” is a softly convicting call to worship God no matter our circumstance. “Singing Hallelujah” was actually one of my least favorite tracks, it seems more of a collection of personal reminiscences that few listeners will be able to connect with, than a universally applicable song as the others tend to be.
Augé’s tenor voice tends to soar into the upper heights of his range, soaring and undulating. His isn’t a husky, hearty vocal performance – more of a plaintive, pleading style. Clearly, I’m a new fan. I could only have wished for a longer disc. Augé’s work sits so well with me that I could enjoyably listen to a double-length album from him.
1. So Deep in Love
2. Where You Go I Go
3. Every Heart
4. Even the Rocks
5. Miracle Love
6. Glory Glory
7. Stolen it Away
8. Singing Hallelujah
9. On the Blue
10. I Am Here to Praise You
11. Call On Me
12. I Know My Place