Prime Cuts: The Power of the Cross, All Things Beautiful, Refuge
Towering behind some of the signature songs that we sing each week in church are giants of faith who created them. And on rare occasions do we meet them. So, thank God for the release of Shelly E. Johnson's four song ep "Power of the Cross." We finally meet Johnson who penned Natalie Grant's song "The Power of the Cross." Hailed from Grant's latest album "Love Revolution" (which was nominated for a Dove Award last year), "The Power of the Cross" has been an album cut gone viral amongst fans. Finally, it is great to hear songwriter Johnson's own version. Signed to Maranatha! Music and Lifeway Worship, "Power of the Cross" is Johnson's debut EP under this joint imprint. But this is far from her first recording effort; way back in 2009, Johnson forked out her own money to release independently "Mosaic of Grace." And while in between recording projects, she fronted her own worship team at her church Brentwood Baptist Church in Nashville.
Since one of Johnson's major claims to fame was penning "The Power of the Cross" for Natalie Grant, it's not surprising that Grant's producer Phil Sillas helmed the project. Sillas who has been known to produce not only Grant but GB5, Kathie Lee Gifford and Peculiar People's Band, certainly does a top notch work here. Just like Grant's own record, Sillas certainly gives this a polished Christian pop AC feel that is ballad heavy. In fact, three out of these four cuts here are piano-based ballads. Album opener and lead single "All Things Beautiful" tiptoes closely to Laura Story's "Blessings." From the unfathomable mystery of why God allows fires, floods and why mothers lose their sons, "All Things Beautiful" is a tug at the heart of trying to understand the agony of suffering in the light of God's love and sovereignty.
Then we finally get to hear Johnson's version of the power ballad "The Power of the Cross." Inspired by her visit to Nashville's Rescue Mission where she saw how women who had been under the abuse of drugs were finally set free by the Cross came the birth of such a worship anthem. Worship does not get richer and more powerful than when Jesus and His Cross are highly exalted. "Refuge" concludes the trilogy of piano ballads where Johnson delivers a bluesy Brooke Fraser-styled worship which is okay without being exceptional.
The album ends on a perkier note with "Hallelujah Forever." Awash with pseudo bells, crunchy guitar riffs, and a hooky chorus, "Hallelujah Forever" is buoyant celebration of Christ's finished work on the Cross. With this ep, Johnson has certainly joins the stellar ranks of many God-fearing female vocalists out there like Natalie Grant, Darlene Zschech and Rachel Lampa. Her songs are indeed Christ focused and with a sweet Spirit-inspired soprano, this CD certainly draws us closer to the Cross in humble worship.