Reviewed by Michael Ehret
Michelle Tumes by Michelle
"Tumes shows great courage with this release. Courage to follow her passion, her creativity."
Remember when Michelle Tumes first came on the scene in 1998? Remember how fresh her sound was and how cool it was to hear her debut single “Please Come Back To Me,” the story of the prodigal set to music? Her breathy, ethereal vocals surrounded by layers and layers of orchestration all laid over a pulsing bed of percussion ushered the prodigal, and all listeners, right into the embrace of God.
Then remember how Sparrow Records tried to get her to “update” her sound over the next several years to become more of a pop princess? This attempt reached its nadir with the songs “Do Ya” from her 2000 disc, Center of My Universe, and the title song from her Dream album in 2001. Neither song was bad, but they were not the Michelle Tumes we loved from Listen.
That artist returns, finally, with her fourth album rightly titled Michelle Tumes and self-produced by Tumes and her husband, Doug Higgins, independently. Everything that made Listen such an out of the box success is back. The whole Enya via Tchaikovsky via Bjork vibe is intact, along with Tumes’ always stellar songwriting.
In-between 2001 and now, Tumes wrote beautiful songs for others (including Sheila Walsh) and recorded a trio worship album with Christine Dente (Out of the Grey) and Susan Ashton called Lost in Wonder: Voices in Worship.
But when the new disc opens with “Introit,” a celebratory anthem proclaiming that God is with us in the midst of everything, and continues with the first single “Domine,” which implores Domine (Lord God) to “make my path run straight” away from “the lies of calamity,” the extended period between albums evaporates along with every bit of apprehension about which Michelle would show up on disc.
Tumes shows great courage with this release. Courage to follow her passion, her creativity, regardless of the outcome. She said the hiatus was necessary to allow her to reconnect with God – and with her vision.
“I really needed some time to regroup, to get back to where I started in every way,” she said. “I knew I needed to get back to just writing what I love, and leave the rest to God.”
The second single of the project, “Fair Weather,” is dramatic, epic even, and proclaims God’s steadfastness. “Oh my love you greet me now//In this tempest night I’ve run aground//And the day has rolled on into never//But you won’t wane in winter’s cold//And in my dark your lights go on//Feel my heart held to your tether.// … You’re the windfall in the rainstorm//Stay with me//Never fair weather//You are never fair weather.”
When listening to this song it is impossible not to picture a storm raging on an open sea with sharp rocks round about between your ship and the shore – but God’s hand is on the tiller guiding you to a safe landing.
Other songs worthy of note: “Break Through,” a song that speaks of God storming “the tower of my heart;” “Caelum Infinitum,” a song about how the beautiful circumstances of this life mirror heaven; and “Let It Rain,” which explores the refreshing presence of God.
Now that Tumes has found her voice again, let’s hope it’s not another five years before she records again.
Michael Ehret is a music maven who has written about music, secular and Christian, as a reporter for The Indianapolis Star newspaper, several Internet sites, and even CCM magazine. He is also the editor of the newsletter Afictionado, the e-zine of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and is testing the waters with his first novel, Beyond December, while working on his second, Skipping July.