In the Balance (Selections from Music Unto the Lord)
James Madison Thomas
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Thoughtful Music, Mature Artist
This reviewer strongly recommends In the Balance, a new release from Christian singer/composer James Madison Thomas. Although he remains virtually unknown outside the Tampa Bay region, Thomas has been producing sensitive and artful contemporary Christian songs for three decades. In the Balance is a collection of the best pieces from this long, innovative career. Thomas creates a unique, personal sound; it’s not rock, folk, or classical, but it somehow combines elements of all three styles. Thomas appears to have been influenced by Dan Fogelberg (lyrically and vocally), Al Stewart (in terms of guitar styling), Simon and Garfunkel, Michael Franks, and pianist Jim Brickman. Thomas is a masterful classical guitarist; he’s pretty accomplished on the piano, too. In the Balance highlights the personal and intimate nature of Thomas’ music. There’s pain in these songs ("How Can I Dream?”), and confusion (“Something’s Wrong”), as well as hope and delight (“Rainbows Rising”). These songs are not “anthems” about the “victorious Christian life,” and they’re not likely to be on the playlist of stations spinning the canned and commercial contemporary Christian music coming out of the Nashville and L.A. music factories. Thomas’ music is too mature and thoughtful for that (“Maybe My Heart” is a good example of what I mean here). Yet, like the Psalmist, Thomas artfully expresses a deep faith and trust in the Lord, even in the saddest and most painful of his songs (“The Gospel on the Ground” beautifully exemplifies this). Of the 15 tracks, “Wait on the Lord” and “Rainbows Rising” probably come closest to commercial, radio-type tunes, but those looking for a commercial sound won’t find satisfaction here. In the Balance is music for a contemplative night by the fireplace, with rain or snow outside. The self-righteous and self-assured won’t appreciate this music, but Christians suffering pain, loss, and doubts will find a friend in James Thomas and encouragement in his music. James Madison Thomas is a multi-talented artist, and those who appreciate his music will also like his photography. Some of that work can be viewed online, but if you live in the Tampa Bay region, you should see it for yourself. It’s the visual side of the Godly and thoughtful music you’ll hear when you purchase In the Balance. Reviewed by Dan Allison, June 16, 2008