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Review: For Freedom By Jimmy Needham

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January 11th, 2010

 

By Chris Wyatt “Here's yet another college-kid worship attempt.  Hum-drum guitars, a decent but unremarkeable voice, and the loose college praise band behind him.”  That's what I thought before I popped the CD in.  Jimmy Needham may look young, but his writing abilities belie any preconceived notions you may form from the CD cover.  From the moment the harmonica comes in on “I Am New” until the impassioned spoken-word “Benediction” comes to a close, you have the feeling that you are listening to something special. [Discuss this in the forums]  [Buy Now]
The ready availability of quality home-recording equipment has led to a huge influx of independent artists forgoing the music machine; the obvious benefit for the rest of us being that these artists are able to express their hearts with artistic freedom and lyrical relevance uncensored and unsullied by talking heads in suits.  Jimmy speaks his peace here, and he does so with substance.  He is the rare artist who can share a message and come across as genuine and sincere.  You get the idea that he is humbled and appreciative of the opportunity and the gifts that he has been given.  His lyrics may cross over into the cliche at times, but they never come across as contrived.  There is a spontaneity to his writing that reveals a heart that realizes the freedom gifted to him by his creator and can't help but rejoice and praise his benefactor.
Jimmy has a soulful voice that is it's own, though it does at times evoke faint images of Stevie Wonder.  I know that sounds weird, but it works.  He rarely sounds strained; he sings with freedom, just occasionally painting the edges of his range but always keeping within the lines.  The album  is largely acoustical, though it does delve into some blues, jazz, R & B and spoken word.  Jimmy is a talented guitar player who shows elegant restraint, painting the perfect backdrop with the occassional bold and confident stroke to accentuate the emotions and feelings pouring forth from his soul.  The music is surprisingly tight.  Needham surrounded himself with competent musicians who do a great job of accentuating the music without taking away from the powerful message in the songs.  Just listen to “The Great Love Story”, which wouldn't be out of place next to Keith Green's “Prodigal Son Suite” or Rich Mullins' “Creed”. 
I find more and more of my musical purchases coming from the independent scene.  This album is a great representation of what can happen when an artist doesn't try to separate his art and his faith, but rather lets them work together as God intended.  It is, quite frankly, one of my favorite albums of the year.
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