Bad things happen to all of us. It's how we respond to them that defines the quality of our lives and our characters. We can sit in perpetual sadness brooding over spilled opportunities. Or we can be immobilized by the gravity of our grief that we become nothing more than a walking vegetable. Or we can choose to relinquish our future and past into the hands of Jesus Christ. And treasure each moment as a precious gift to glorify Him. It is not fortuitous that Johnson Edition's debut record for Crossroads Music is entitled "This Life." Neither is it a coincidence that three of tracks have the word "life" in them: "This Life," "Live My Life for You" and "Life is Precious." Central to the record is the theme that life is precious. But, life is precious not because it is the mere dash between the two dates on our tombstones but because we are created by God. And we are made by Him and for Him. Johnson Edition is made up of Jathyn, Breayn, Westyn and Destiny Johnson. They are a young sibling foursome with ages all in the twenties coming from the upstate South Carolina where they grew up in the small town of Salem, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Produced by Danny Crawford and Jonathan Martin, "This Life" is country-flavored Gospel that is going to win favors for those who relish the contemporary harmony sounds of Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum and the Band Perry. Fans of the aforementioned Rascal Flatts would recognize the lead single "Shine On." This track was originally snuggled in a corner from Rascal Flatts 2001's "Melt" album. However, in the hands of Johnson Edition, "Shine On" takes on a new bluegrass banjo-hyped persona. Here on this pacer God is thanked for shinning meaning into our existence. Many of us would find affinity to the Leah R. Lawrence composed "Live My Life for You." With one of the sisters taking the lead, "Live My Life for You" finds the protagonist wondering at the end of the day if she has given her best; a struggle we all faced. Title cut "This life," on the other hand, has the stamp "hit" written all over it: the fiery execution, the piercing beat and the quartet's engaging deliveries.
Lightening on the contemporary country pop grip, Johnson Edition does indulge in some sawdust acoustics with "Consider the Lilies." Recalling the words of Jesus from Matthew 6:28,"Consider the Lilies" is a challenge to those of us who are worry mongers. More scripturally soaked songs abound with the Romans 8:26-27 based "Pray Through Me." If you are overwhelmingly lost as to how to pray, give "Pray Through Me" a listen. "I Survived" as the title suggests is triumphantly a positive song. Secularist country radio programmers love such inspirational novelties; but Johnson Edition are never shy to point out that the triumphant over our circumstances is not based solely on self-esteem but on the One who believes in us.
While Southern Gospel and Christian country music are often guilty of having a baby boomers' appeal, it's refreshing to find four twenty-somethings in such genres. Johnson Edition may not be strictly traditional but their style of country certainly would not isolate the open minded traditionalists. And for younger country folks, this record is easily going to be a favorite. But there is another reason why this record is vital: those of us struggling in the web of life's complexities will find great encouragement through these songs. This is particularly true for those who have yet to find the Lord who makes life meaningful, joyous and precious.