Music Review: Different Story by Jon Thurlow

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Updated June 02, 2018
Music Review: Different Story by Jon Thurlow
Different Story |  Jon Thurlow  |  Forerunner Music

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Written and recorded in the middle of a stormy season of life, and a three-year journey in the making, this album is a grace of God album.

He brought it all together. The entire process has been a testimony of His mercy, His gentleness, and His faithfulness. Interwoven into these songs are parts of my own journey with Him, my prayers to Him, as well as His words to me (and to all of us). May we each come up from the wilderness leaning on Him.

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Different Story by Jon Thurlow
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Jon Thurlow is best known as a worship leader for the International House Of Prayer Kansas City, and he has been leading worship since he was just a teenager. He's no newcomer to the recording studio either having been involved with a number of worship projects and his own solo albums. This is his second solo album on this current record label, Forerunner Music, the last one was in 2013 called "Stand In Awe" and in 2014 he started talking with producer Brown Bannister about his next project - he never thought that it would take him over 3 years to get the project recorded and available.

Life circumstances got in the way of the album, one thing that happened during that time was that Ben Shive also got involved in the project. Over the three years these songs have taken to get written and recorded have, I think, helped this project to mature. Not least because the circumstances and God's faithfulness through this season has helped Jon to bring songs that reflect the ups and downs of life.

Some people are keen to compare Jon's talent to Elton John or even Billy Joel, but for a new generation. I can see why these comparisons are made, he certainly knows how to bring a song's sensitivity out with the piano and vocal combination! The album kicks off with "Your Light" which is about the pursuit of happiness, describing himself as being lost in the dark until Jesus found Him. I would like to say that this is a biographical track, but even if it isn't I think it is one that many can identify with. This song identifies itself with the vocal range used to punch out some of the lines in the early part of the song. In "I Want You" Jon makes his vocals sound like he's just been to the dentist, almost as though his mouth is numb up and some of the words lack the sharpness of definition, but I think this is a deliberate choice, because in the chorus sections the sound is much clearer!

The title track "Different Story" is one of the more interesting tracks on the album. The verses look at the pain of our broken lives, where we speak from out of our hurting. The chorus however reminds us that God has set us free, broken our chains, that actually it's a different story, no longer one of despair and pain, but of hope and freedom. Where this album really feels at it's very best is "For You" which tells the story of the relationship breakdown between God and Mankind, and the redemptive path that God lays out. On an early listen to this track with cursory attention to the lyrics this track confused me, because of the way the sense of time works. Listening a bit deeper this actually works and makes sense, it's a beautiful ballad which really expresses Jesus' love for what will become the church as his beloved.

Like "For You" some of the other tracks are written from God's perspective. "I Want Your Heart" is one of these where it expresses that saving us cost Him something precious, and in return He is asking for our whole hearts. It refers back to the time when we first committed to God, and asks is He still our only one, or have we replaced His love in our lives. This is a challenging song for anyone who has been a Christian for a while, we know that we let things get in the way of our relationship with God, take this song as an opportunity to recommit to Him.

"Closer" blends an upbeat electronic inspired tune with a song that talks about longing for a better and closer relationship with God. Similarly he takes an upbeat piano tune (which could be straight from Keith Green) and combines it, in the verses, with a story of hiding in the darkness. The chorus lifts this up and works so well as Jon reminds us of the "Power of Your Love". It doesn't stick with Piano though, the Saxophone and Organ really gives this a triumphant and brilliantly happy feel. "Need To Know" feels like a song from a musical as he talks about his need to be reassured that God really does love him.

The last track on the album, "Still Looking Back At Me", is the touching story of a young woman who has suffered in her life but refusing to give up. She looks to God for her strength and what we hear is the way that God's heart breaks for her in every moment she turns to Him. This is another touching piano and vocal pairing that keeps that vibe going that has caused people to identify him as an Elton or Joel.

Jon Thurlow has a voice that will immediately pull you into his songs, even if you don't quite understand them you can't get away from the vocal which captivates. When you add the gentler piano based tracks this album becomes genuinely moving. On first listen to this album I didn't really rate it, but having taken the time to really sit down and listen and pay attention the strength of the songs and stories has grabbed me. The identifying of God's heart in songs like "For You" ,"I Want Your Heart" and even in "Still Looking Back At Me" just blew me away. I know that these are one person's thoughts of how God see's us, but it is still awesome and beautiful to see that heart of love captured in words and music like this. Largely this is a step away from corporate worship and that's good, because there will always be songs that don't fit that model, that allow the artist more room to stretch their abilities. They may not be worship but they do show the heart of God beautifully.

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