Reviewed by Heather West
A Place Called Grace by
Place Called Grace remains a congregational worship experience, sometimes
at the expense of individual artistry."
The term “worship leader” takes several concepts for granted. One is the idea that worship is that period of time between 10:30 and 11:00 when ten, one hundred, or one thousand people look at a PowerPoint slide and sing a pre-determined set of music. Over the last few decades, this tradition has resulted in the birth of a new music genre, commonly known as worship music. The final product of this trend is the worship artist, people like Carmen D’Arcy who take their ministry beyond the walls of the church, and transform it into a full-blown career.
Carmen D’Arcy is the worship leader of Indianapolis’ Grace Community Church, yet her first album, A Place Called Grace, faces the same challenge that any other worship album faces, that is, turning a congregational and usually emotional event into an individual, stick-in-your-CD-player product. Though many worship artists prefer to preserve the spirit of worship music by recording a live album, Carmen relies on lyricism and not-so background vocals to create the sense of a “group effort.” In many ways, A Place Called Grace remains a congregational worship experience, sometimes at the expense of individual artistry.
Though the album’s energetic opening track, “You Are Everything,” kicks off with D’Arcy’s powerful and pristine vocals, the chorus is essentially just that, a chorus of voices that overshadow the actual artist. “God You Reign” also follows this trend, along with “Hallelujah Is Our God” and “You Are My God.” Though their spiritual content is applicable and evident, these songs have the level of originality equal to that of the tracks on a PraiseHymn demonstration CD.
On the other hand, the song “You’re Beautiful,” a quiet piano ballad, is a better showcase for Carmen’s vocal talents and artistic intensity (unfortunately it is the shortest song on the album). “Fade,” which closes the album, also lends itself to the more emotional and personal aspects of worship, congregational and individual, and provides a favorable last impression.
In keeping with the simply rhymed title, A Place Called Grace, Carmen’s lyricism rarely deviates from the accepted boundaries of modern worship music: Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, and repeat Chorus. While this pattern makes for easy assimilation into a congregational praise and worship session, it is somewhat predictable for the casual listener.
The community-centric nature of worship is also emphasized by the use of “we” and “our” in almost every song’s title and lyrics. This is one of the album’s better decisions, simultaneously inviting the listener to join the artist and projecting a sense of unity between the artist and her background elements. Perhaps, in this light, the majority of A Place Called Grace should be attributed to “Carmen D’Arcy and Choir.” At any rate, D’Arcy’s preference for group vocals and all-inclusive lyricism ensure that, even in this studio-recorded worship experience, the listener never feels alone.
Heather West is a sophomore English and Communications major, who firmly believes in the concept of the Renaissance man (or woman, in her case). In that vein, her interests include everything from piano, Broadway, and gospel choir to snowboarding, missionary work, and filmmaking. Her writing is inspired by her reading; her favorite authors are Brian Jacques, Bill Myers, Timothy Zahn, G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Kenneth Grahame, Chaim Potok, Isaac Asimov, and Lloyd Alexander. While she aspires to be a novelist and screenwriter, Heather equally enjoys journalism, particularly in the areas of film and music. Her dream job is creating clean, thought-provoking media that will point people back to God. She has written for Infuze Magazine, more recently for SoulAudio.com, and is thrilled to start writing for TitleTrakk!