Music Review: Raising Questions by Matt JR Hurley

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Updated October 18, 2016
Music Review: Raising Questions by Matt JR Hurley
Shout to the Sky -Acoustic

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Track Listing

Shout to the Sky
My Soul Sings
Spinning Circles
The Promise of Redemption and Hope

Singer/songwriter MATT JR HURLEY is a young man who has been through some trying situations in the last few years. He is also an honest person and his reflections on the challenges to, and the security of, his own faith are poetically captured in his songwriting.

 No glib triumphalistic songs here, these songs are both modern laments and songs of hope and strength. The songs on the EP feature poetic lyrics, thoughtful melodies and powerful choruses performed by a group of his musician friends – all framed around Matt’s acoustic guitar playing. Matt’s songs are grounded in a folk/roots feel as highlighted in the tracks ‘Shout to the Sky’ and ‘Spinning Circles’ through to the more pop tinged ‘My Soul Sings’. ‘Pebbles’ is an an ethereal track dealing with the theme of loss. The final track on the release, which is built on a gentle pulsing march, “The Promise of Redemption and Hope” makes the very important point of no matter what we may encounter in our lives, there is actually something more for us all.

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Raising Questions
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Have you ever just wanted to rant at God? Your situation so desperate, so awful that you want to shout and ask why this is all happening, what does it all mean? Life isn't all moments where praise is overflowing and faith is strong. This is an EP that captures some of that feeling of anguish and yet brings about it's own sense of calm.

You might think the way to express this is a thrash metal sound, but Matt JR Hurley opts for a more gentle plucked guitar as he goes "Raising Questions" to God in "Shout To The Sky". At the same time as questioning "Did it really have to be this way?" he also includes "I know that you are listening" that despite the battering, the difficulty there is a trust, this continues into a declaration of that knowledge, knowing that at the same time as we are questioning God is shouting the answer from the heavens, even if we can't hear it! That's quite an opening track!

"My Soul Sings" continues with a similar muted sound and the content and style reminds me of the Psalms where things are difficult, and yet the praise is continuous. There is a change of tempo and a section that almost feels like spoken word in the second verse before a simple little electric guitar solo that creates an uplift on this track, before there is a response written from God's perspective which is a great reassurance, then Matt returns to the praise element of the chorus in an upbeat finish.

There is a nice change of pace to the intro of "Spinning Circles" with a prominent but light beat and a touch of bass before Matts vocals are introduced. Again there is the muted sound which is lifted by the bass and occasional touches of the electric guitar. "Spinning Circles" is about the constant need to turn back to God as we wander away we have to turn back, when we face Him and set our sights on Him then we can head forward, but we still wander. "Pebbles" uses the water and the ripples from things dropping into the water as a metaphor for our lives, events and losses that we feel like the ripples across the water. This is a beautiful track that has previously been released as a single, using this picture language and some beautifully chosen tempo changes and instruments to lift the song.

The last track takes us back to a place of faith and promise in "The Promise of Redemption and Hope". With a marching style in both beat and structure this track is not the charge into the fray, but the marching pace that gets foot soldiers to their destination - keeping their eyes on the horizon and the promise of the song.

I think I have used the word muted once or twice through this review and there is a melancholic feel to many of these tracks, yet they are interspersed with hope and faith throughout. Like the Psalms or even Lamentations there is a sense of someone who is going through something, and yet they trust, they have seen God do things in their lives before, and they know He will again. These are not worship songs to lift you to heaven on a cloud, these are songs that are intensely honest, breathtakingly beautiful in their poetic composition and speak to the struggles and yet affirm your faith. They are songs for contemplation, songs for agreement and words when the cries of our own heart can't quite keep it together.

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