"This is Life" is going to be the final album by Chris Sligh. Sligh first rose to attention on a(n) (inter)national level via his appearance on the sixth season of American Idol. Touted by USA today as the "most ambitious idol to date," Sligh has had quite a career after his appearance at the famed singing contest. He has had a top 10 Billboard Christian song "Empty Me." Together with Clint Lagerberg he has crafted at Billboard country number 1 song for Rascal Flatts "Here Comes Goodbye." He even has had a role in the big screen when he appeared as B-Mac in the movie "October Baby." However, disentranced with the current state of how albums are received in our iTunes downloadable world, Sligh has decided to call it quits. This is not to say that he won't be making music anymore. Rather, according to his blog, he could still grace us with EPs or singles but he will not be releasing any more full-length albums. So, "This is Life" is essentially his album swan song. And he is certainly leaving with a bang. Instead of the usual 10-12 songs we get a whopping 37 songs over 3 CDs worth of music. Save for Sligh's cover of two hymns, this former American Idol alumnus co-wrote or wrote all of the songs on this juggernaut release.
The three discs are each given their individual titles indicative of the disc's thematic focus. The first of which is entitled "This is Worship." This disc was first release last year under a different titular "For Our God and King." These fourteen songs are written for congregational worship. A highlight is Sligh's take of the old hymn "How Marvellous." Don't expect "How Marvellous" to be the usual dirge-like and gloopy rendition. Rather, Sligh has placed his own stamp right across this Charles H. Gabriel composition: his "whoa" echo and an electrifying opening riff are just like the Puritans meeting Hillsong United. This is an excellent archetype of how hymns should be re-done for today: one earmarked with personality yet still reverential. With lyrics focused on the greatness of God, "For Our God and King" gushes with such kinetic energy that is befitting to be used as an opening song to a worship service. "How Great," which boasts some ingenious use of violins at the front end, is just a testimony of Sligh's creative use of instrumentation. While "Communion Song" is a soft introspective piano-led ballad that gives us pause to reflect on the meaning of this ordinance that we have often taken for granted. However, a few of the worship songs do suffer from the usual guitar riffs and the big sounds pari passu with many worship songs in the genre.
Disc two entitled "This is Love" shifts gears to more personal dimension as this next set of songs are more focused on Sligh's love for his wife. "Poorly Written Love Song" is wryly humorous without being self depreciative. Trying to avoid the mawkish Hallmark-esque clichés that often plague romantic songs, "Poorly Written Love Song" is Sligh's attempt at writing one that at the end of the day works gorgeously albeit some hilarious lines. "Beneath the Willow Tree" shows how versatile a writer Sligh is. With an air of innocence and naivety, Sligh takes us back to the first flush of adolescent love where holding hands and carving names on a willow tree are one's greatest thrills. Then in "Casualty of War" he dons his philosophical best: a thought provoking treatise about how love sometimes drives us to fight with each other. Only to find out that when the flags are waved and the weaponries are retracted, love's been mauled beyond recognition. A few of the songs are autobiographical of Sligh's own struggles with the best being the banjo-led rootsy "Colorado" which speaks of Slign's struggle to follow God's call to leave Nashville that is quite moving.
Then album closes with the third disc "This is Everything." This final disc consists of songs that are more life lessons God has been teaching Sligh over the last few years. Sligh calls "Where You Are" his Tom Petty song. The 70s sounding guitar strums and the catchy the sing along chorus undergirds the message that God will meet us where we are. Then Sligh dabbles with some jazzy-pop with "Why?" "Why?" recalls some of the lament Psalms where he is not coy in expressing his frustrations about God's silence before closing with the faith-imbued line "God I will trust in you even though I can't see you." The set closes with the lyrics of the old hymn "Turn Your Eyes" with new music written by Sligh. In an album where Sligh deals with changes, frustrations, joys, uncertainties, faith, worship, love, family and so much more, it is comforting that nothing is ever meaningful if we don't turn our eyes to our Lord Jesus Christ. And though it is with sadness that we may not get another album from Sligh, one hopes that in looking to Jesus as his inspiration, Sligh will still continue to bless us with new music in other forms.
To find out more about Chris Sligh and/or purchase his new album, please visit: http://chrissligh.com/