Sounds like … the acoustic-based folk-pop of singer/songwriters like Kendall Payne, Sarah McLachlan, Jennifer Knapp, Sarah Masen, Aimee Mann and Bethany Dillon.
At a glance … with thoughtful and honest songwriting, Joy Whitlock's impressive debut successfully relates her confessions and conversations with God, all expressed with an acoustic pop/rock style that occasionally demonstrates an impressively artful side.
Joy Whitlock grew up a pastor's kid in Mississippi, complete with the stereotypical rebellious streak. Dabbling with things like promiscuity and drug abuse, she left home at 17 to live with her older sister in Memphis. But then her life changed in 2004 after reluctantly accepting her mother's offer to see The Passion of the Christ. By the time the film ended, she'd recommitted her life to Jesus.
All the while, the heavily-tattooed twenty-something had been developing her musical skills after seeing Sarah McLachlan in concert ten years earlier. Between local performances and a new outpouring of songs depicting her spiritual journey, she attracted the attention of Memphis-based Ardent Records, and soon performing and recording with label mate Todd Agnew before finally releasing her debut.
Whitlock describes God and a Girl as her conversations with God, relating the struggles and realities of her faith walk. Indeed, "Cost of Being Free" has an autobiographical feel, describing how she relies on Christ whenever she stumbles. "Faith Don't Fail" shares how it's hard to live her beliefs, and in "Testify" she admits her failings to her "Daddy." Whitlock relates the other side of the conversation through "Don't Look Down" and "Behind the Scenes," expressing God's love and support through all things, regardless of how far we stray.
Though influenced by McLachlan, the budding singer/songwriter more closely resembles the work of Kendall Payne, Sarah Masen, and Jennifer Knapp with her expressive alto and acoustic-pop style—certainly all good company to be associated with. How odd then that the album's lead single is "Holding On to Me," the only one Whitlock didn't write and the most heavily produced on the album. Though not bad, it's out of step with the rest of this album and feels tacked on. Other rockers on the album could fare just as well on radio; better still, the acoustic pop of "Beautiful" suitably reflects her sound, songwriting, and testimony.
This is a lengthy debut, running more than an hour with a few tracks that carry on too long. And though the mid-tempo acoustic pop style grows somewhat monotonous, Whitlock spreads out the highlights appropriately. There's "Your Face" with probing lyrics about seeking to live for God, and the powerful "In This Hour," relating how the "sanctity of suffering" can bring us back to the Lord, a sophisticated tune that demonstrates her potential as an artful songwriter. Once the album closes with the eerie-yet-celebratory apocalyptic alt-pop of "The Day of the Lord," it's very much apparent from the strength of this debut that Whitlock is one to watch.
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