|Jason Gray - A Way To See In The Dark|
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Reviewed by Tom Lennie
This Minnesota-based musician has built up quite a name for himself - this being his fourth studio album with Centricity Music (he had four independent releases before that) and having toured with Sarah Groves and collaborated with a host of other well-known Christian musicians. The present disc continues in similar vein to previous output - pleasant, varied pop melodies, all composed by Gray in conjunction with one or two other writers. These include Jason Ingram, who once again most ably serves as (co-) producer (along with Rusty Varenkamp) with Ingram also providing keys, programming and background vocals. Main strengths of the album are the radio-friendly production, Jason's fine vocals and, most notable of all, the original, thoughtful lyrics that attend every one of these dozen tracks. Gray is an intelligent, songsmith and this is particularly evident on songs like the title track, which talks about holding on to God in the tough times, when there's no real sense of his presence or guiding. The songwriter is not in the least wary of tackling issues relating to human frailty in his lyrics - dealing with fear is a prominent theme on at least two tracks. Another noteworthy inclusion is the gorgeous hymnal structure, "I Will Find A Way", which brings the album to a close. If there's any quibble with Jason's music, it's that it's that same style (ala Steve Curtis Chapman) that many other artists are performing, and therefore lacks freshness. Having said that, this is still a fine album.
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When Jason inked a contract with Centricity Records in 2006 after a run of more than a decade as a hard-touring indie artist, he did so after a lot of soul-searching, wondering how his highly relational artistry would translate to a broader audience.
Now with the release of his third studio album for Centricity, A Way To See In The Dark, that tension can probably be laid to rest. What emerges on the new project is a thought-provoking collection of artful, emotional and radio-friendly tunes that achieve a high level of accessibility without sacrificing any of Gray’s personality or creativity.
Jason Gray’s songwriting has consistently earned the respect of his artist peers, largely for his uncanny ability to absorb images, emotions and truths from a variety of sources: theology, literature, relationships, his own struggles, pop culture, poetry, etc., and to pull together those diverse strands into a unified whole. Over the years he has developed a razor sharp knack for saying deep things in a way that the rest of us can relate to.