Reviewed by Jennifer Bogart
Stop and Listen by Bethany Dillon
"...filled with accessible, light-filled melodies."
At the age of 21, Bethany Dillon is no wet-behind-the-ears debut artist. Having independently recorded an album filled with songs she both wrote and performed, she cut her first labeled album in 2004 at the age of 14. Stop and Listen is her fourth studio album, and fully reflects her years of experience.
Straddling the fault lines between several styles of music, Stop and Listen is difficult to pigeon-hold into a single category. While it can certainly be identified as acoustic pop, there are also hints of easy listening, light country, and folk to be found throughout the album. Merely slapping a collection of labels on her work does it a disservice however. Her enigmatic sound takes no notice of genre boundary lines, instead straddling a large, multi-branched intersection, where she’s certain to meet many new fans traveling from all directions.
Written from a personal perspective, each of Dillon’s songs seems to have been birthed as a direct result of, or perhaps as an aid to, working out certain specific issues with God. Largely contemplative they reveal personal shortcomings and struggles that all believers can relate to. This empathetic connection allows listeners to come alongside Dillon and search their own hearts as they turn them back to the creator.
Far from being morose however, Stop and Listen is filled with accessible, light-filled melodies. The musical tone is consistent through, and with so many artists mixing it up on their CDs, I appreciate that there are no drastic changes in style as we join Dillon on her journey. As a result, there aren’t any misses for me on this disc. I often discover a song or two that I dislike on collections that vary widely in style; Stop and Listen is blessedly a grouping of winners.
The opening track “Get Up and Walk” combines a powerful spiritual message of the enlivening work of Christ with an addictive rhythm and multi-layered arrangement is the powerhouse of the album. “Everyone to Know” displays the strongest evidences of country-influences, and is included twice on the disc, once in an acoustic form, the other in the disc's first single, headed for great popularity on Christian radio stations no doubt. With it’s simple, chorus-like lyrics, and catchy melody this celebration of the fulfillment that is found only in Christ has welled from the mouths of my family for the past week.
Dillon’s lyrics are both biblical and inspiring. Seamlessly integrated scriptural imagery throughout the majority of the discs tracks. The image of a woman grasping the hem of Jesus in order to effect change is explored from a perspective of the spiritual realities of such an action by modern believers in “Reach Out”. The discs title track, “Stop and Listen” hearkens back to Mary and Martha’s age-old dilemma of putting aside our need to ‘do do do’ in order to, well…stop and listen to our Lord.
Throughout it all Dillon’s voice consummately soars ethereally, trills, and communicates truth in a transparent, earthy tone. With so little distance between her work and personal lives – as evidenced by “Say Your Name” in which she reflects on the effects of her new marriage on her faith – a sincerity that is rarely found with artists who only perform instead of write, springs forth on each track. Filled with meaning which grows deeper with each pass through, I highly recommend Stop and Listen to any who appreciate the work of inspirational female vocalists.
Susan Lloyd is a professional photographer in Charleston, South Carolina who specializes in shooting concerts. She holds a degree in Music Education and has worked as a worship leader and as a youth minister. She is passionate about all types of music and enjoys encouraging and supporting bands who seek to glorify God. She also loves movies, animals, traveling, and making new friends. She and her husband have three kids and have been married for nearly 17 years. More info about Susan's photography can be found at www.susanlloydphotography.com or www.susieq3c.wordpress.com