12 Songs, 52 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

After three lower-profile albums, singer/songwriter Matt Maher enters the Christian music market in earnest with 2008’s Empty & Beautiful. The album hints at Maher’s interesting resume — in the ‘90s, he worked in Catholic community service projects across the Southwest alongside the legendary Rich Mullins. His sense of Christian love for the downtrodden informs tracks like “Look Like a Fool” and “Unwavering” with a faith that goes beyond his own personal salvation. Musically, the tracks here are mostly built around Maher’s jazz-inflected piano and folky acoustic guitar work, punched up by robust drums and electric lead guitar. “Shine Like the Son” musters real rock ‘n’ roll bite, while the title number surrounds Maher’s clear, earnest vocals with a billowing string backdrop. In between these extremes are a brace of catchy pop/rock tunes, with “Leave a Light On” and “Your Grace is Enough” standing out for their buoyancy and smooth construction. Maher excels at weaving scriptural quotes into his lyrics — “Unwavering,” for instance, uses the Beatitudes to powerful effect. Empty & Beautiful contains enough echoes of Maher’s own spiritual journey to make it a distinctive and memorable work.

EDITORS’ NOTES

After three lower-profile albums, singer/songwriter Matt Maher enters the Christian music market in earnest with 2008’s Empty & Beautiful. The album hints at Maher’s interesting resume — in the ‘90s, he worked in Catholic community service projects across the Southwest alongside the legendary Rich Mullins. His sense of Christian love for the downtrodden informs tracks like “Look Like a Fool” and “Unwavering” with a faith that goes beyond his own personal salvation. Musically, the tracks here are mostly built around Maher’s jazz-inflected piano and folky acoustic guitar work, punched up by robust drums and electric lead guitar. “Shine Like the Son” musters real rock ‘n’ roll bite, while the title number surrounds Maher’s clear, earnest vocals with a billowing string backdrop. In between these extremes are a brace of catchy pop/rock tunes, with “Leave a Light On” and “Your Grace is Enough” standing out for their buoyancy and smooth construction. Maher excels at weaving scriptural quotes into his lyrics — “Unwavering,” for instance, uses the Beatitudes to powerful effect. Empty & Beautiful contains enough echoes of Maher’s own spiritual journey to make it a distinctive and memorable work.

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Ratings and Reviews

4.7 out of 5
180 Ratings
180 Ratings
lindsayraemyers ,

an album of depth and humanity- striving for divinity

I am excited for the mail later today. When I first saw the album's track list I was slightly annoyed that four of the songs are already released (albeit some have been made over). I mean, c'mon, that' s a quarter of the record! As soon as I heard "I Rejoice" I was unabashedly won over again. It's so intense! This is what I miss in some of the other songs, though. "Lay It Down" is a song whose lyrics unfold in my prayer every time I approach the tabernacle to pray and yet this recording of a song Matt has sung live for years doesn't really build with the kind of strength I would like to see until the very end. That aside, I'm ecstatic it found its way onto an album. I can't wait for the ripples of this song to crest in many many people genuinely finding in it a vehicle to surrender. That's the power of music and the Holy Spirit.

I also have to highlight that I really love the title track. This song is just interesting. The lyrics are personal in the way I mentioned above, I love it when Matt sings with his head voice (see "By the Rivers of Babylon," the final stroke on Matt's last release and one of the gems of that album), there are VIOLINS, it's piano driven, and best of all it feels TRUE.

The more I listen to this album, though, the more Matt's music converts me all over again, in every sense.

http://www.lindsaylovesmusic.blogspot.com

Mike_LaCharite ,

Matt Does It Again

I think one of the greatest things about this album is its diversity. Matt runs the gambit of styles, from the powerfully driven rock of "Shine Like the Sun" to several prayerful songs like the title track and "Lay It Down" that lead the listener on a journey of self surrender and sacrifice. Each song is a gem in itself. One of the best is "As It Is in Heaven." After purchasing Overflow, I used "As It Is in Heaven" frequently for youth group meetings, adult meetings, classes, and just about everything else, and didn't think Matt would be able to top that song. He proved me wrong with the re-record on this album. Thanks to some great collaberation with Ed Cash, the new song is not only easier to sing when transposed down (I can't hit the high notes like Matt can), but leads listeners to appreciate the Lord's Prayer in a whole new, more meaningful way. "Great Things" breathes new life into one of the most beautiful prayer-songs written in scripture. Every song on this album cuts straight to the heart and speaks of the importance of surrendering ourselves to the Father no matter what the cost. Thanks, Matt, for surrendering yourself as an example to help us learn to surrender our own burdens and iniquities.

Also, for anyone who hasn't seem them already, there are videos Matt posted on YouTube explaining the premise of the album and each individual song. They are definitely worth checking out.

This album is worthy of being in any music collection. Pick it up... you won't be disappointed.

SDhoost ,

He's finally gone mainstream, but that changed nothing

As someone who's been listening to Matt for years, both on stage and in his CDs, I was a little leery hearing that he was going to a major record label. It often seems to be the case that artists who sign with major records lose the intimacy they once had with their audience.

So I popped in the CD and listened to the opening track, which is revamped from his earlier album "Welcome to Life." Indeed, it sounded much more modern and had a certain studio sound to it. However, as I played through the CD, I began to hear the same deep and intimate prayer that I had come to expect from Matt's CDs.

The CD has 4 songs from prior albums and 8 totally new ones. From the powerful worship of "For your Glory" to the beauty of "As it is in Heaven," the changes made to the music are all heartily welcomed.
As for the new music, it absolutely resounds with the same spirit that we heard in Overflow. As a friend once put it, "sometimes I feel like I'm interrupting his prayer by listening to the music," and you truly feel that in songs like "Leave a Light On" and "I Rejoice." The album is similar to Overflow in the sense that it is more subdued, but it still is wrought with emotional intensity, such as in "Maranatha."

It is overall a great purchase, and one that I am happy to have made.

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