withLove (released October 15, 2016)
By Bob Marovich
It is appropriate to begin 2017 with a post about a group that has love in its name and sings about love.
A love of God, a love for God, and a love for all of God’s creation frame the self-titled debut by Baltimore’s multicultural ensemble withLove. In addition to music, withLove, formed by David Warren in 2013, holds “Love Projects” around the Baltimore area, where they serve the sick and shut-in and feed the homeless.
withLove, the album and group, offer an eclectic mix of symphonic CCM, rock (progressive and gritty), gospel, jazz, and acoustic flavors. Their love for all types of music is eclipsed only by their collective skill seamlessly navigating and blending styles into a compelling whole. The music opens up like flowers as seen through time-elapsed photography. It floats down like confetti. It is a gentle warming rain after a drought.
Of special note is Rachael Edwards’ lead on the opening track, “Maker.” Her singing is eerily reminiscent of Annie Haslam of Renaissance in its crystalline beauty and weightlessness as she expresses love for all creation and for the Creator. Another striking singer is Lana Matthews, who brings much passion to the layered and hypnotic “Sinking.” All the leads on the nine-track album are beautifully-talented singers, but Edwards and Matthews I could listen to for hours.
“After Your Heart” is an effusive love song to God buoyed by a soul clap beat and country-rock-style curlicue riffs on electric guitar. “Worth It All,” one of the album’s singles, is a bracing praise anthem.
Propelled gently by a jazz combo, “Something Beautiful” asks God “what would happen if we love like you love?” It’s worth finding out the answer in 2017.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “After Your Heart,” “Something Beautiful.”