It has been such a great year for new music – at least, for my particular tastes. If you don’t know, I am a music hoarder. Let’s just say I could start up my iTunes library right now, come back a week later, and still have a couple more days of music left. This year alone has brought out new works from a good portion of my favorite artists. But one album has really struck me this year. The artist is Jason Gray. His musical creation is A Way To See In The Dark.
Jason is distinct in so many ways. For starters, he is a stutterer. He literally has a speech handicap that causes him to stutter occasionally when he speaks. This handicap never reveals itself when he sings, however. He himself considers this a beautiful metaphor for how God does the amazing through the broken.
Jason’s music is pop with an acoustic folk flavor. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of pop music. Pop songs tend to be great for a week, get overplayed, then lose themselves altogether when the next hit pours over the air waves. And the lyrics are usually all sugar and no substance. Yes, pop music gets feet tapping and bodies dancing, but I’m looking for songs that challenge my mind and move my heart. This is the artistry of Jason Gray, and he excels at it on this album. He accomplishes both. He considers it an enjoyable challenge to take deep, beautiful truths and break them down into fun songs to listen to and sing.
The major theme of the album (though he wrote the songs as they came with no theme in mind) is our identity in Christ, the challenges we face in living out that identity, and the beauty God brings when we do. He opens the album with “Remind Me Who I Am”, asking God to help us remember in our failures and struggles that we are God’s beloved – we belong to Him. He sings of the joy of living life well in “Good to Be Alive”. He wonders with excitement: if the name for God (YHWH) is pronounced with aspirated consonants in Hebrew, could it mean that we pronounce His name with “The Sound of Our Breathing”? He then reveals the major enemy to our identity in Christ – fear. The Irish pub pounding “No Thief Like Fear” shows that fear is a monster that “robs me blind”, “holds you while it swallows you alive”, and “takes the best of us then comes back for the rest of us.” He continues the challenge in “Fear Is Easy, Love Is Hard”, showing that fear takes no effort to succumb, while love is a constant struggle that brings light to our lives. The album ends with two masterpieces. “I Will Find A Way” is based on the Walt Wangerin monologue where God loves a girl who has been utterly spent on sin. She’s locked herself inside herself. “How should I come to the one I love? I will find a way.” The way He finds is an amazing twist that makes this one of the most beautiful depictions of God’s love for us I have ever heard. The hymn styled “Jesus, We Are Grateful” is a solid song of thanksgiving to “Jesus who rescues us from the wrath to come.” It builds from a drum based cry to a powerful choral anthem of praise. It has left me in tears many times.
On top of all this, the Special Edition of the album comes with bonus tracks and acoustic demos. Most importantly, it comes with a devotional booklet that reveals more of the thoughts Jason wants to express in each song – the best insert I have ever seen with an album.
Jason has quickly become one of my favorite songwriters. I hope you’ll check out A Way To See In The Dark.