Children of Light is a fantastic album by worship leader David R. Berleson. From the very first song my mind tried to place the sonic quality of the album. Within about 30 seconds I came to the conclusion that if U2, and Jars of Clay (circa. Who We Are Instead) had a love child and they were raised in Appalachia, then this is most likely what they would sound like. For the record, all of that is a positive in my book. There is at once an ethereal quality to the songs, but one that is so very grounded in the pop rock of the aforementioned bands that they become hugely accessible. At the same time, there is an ever-present hint of “twang” that is infused in everything from the guitar work (with a hint of blues), to the vocal harmonies. It is a mix that I personally find very pleasing to listen to. It is good music to crank up while driving some back roads with the windows down or to listen to while reading scripture or praying.
From a thematic standpoint Children of Light lives up to its title. The album is mostly concerned with who we are because of Christ. This in itself is a wonderful declarative statement about the church. I cannot say this is a pure worship record, but I don’t I think this is the purpose. The focus of this album is only one aspect of how we can worship (by declaring both what we are in Christ and what we will do in response). I really believe we need to spend as much time as possible declaring who God is, and less time saying what we will do…in the worship context that is. But again, that is not a knock on the album per se, but a personal preference in the worship genre. The type of songs contained within Children of Light have a place (like half of the Psalms), but I love the ones that focus on God and let us declare who He is. Again, this is particularly in the congregational worship segment of music. If I could classify this album, I would say it is much more for the edification of the body of Christ. A way to minister to the church.
As an edifying work, this album hits on all cylinders. The poetry and theology is masterfully executed. Nowhere is this more evident then the lines “How will we know that we are filled with the Holy Ghost…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” This is the bridge to “Harvest Song” the ninth track on Children of Light. It is a really subtle, but beautiful moment on the record, one that exemplifies the simple power that seeps throughout the entire record. There is a wonderful reworking of the hymn “Blest be the Dear Uniting Love” that is another very great moment on the record. Sometimes a reworked hymn does not work. This does, and does so nicely.
I must comment on the guitar work on the album. At every moment that guitars are featured, it is so tasteful and sounds so good, that I am left wanting more. For me, that is perfect. Children of Light shows masterful restraint that adds mystery and nuance to the music and lyrics. For the timbre of the album I would say the guitar work could not have been much better. There is no new territory explored, but if it would have been it would have detracted from the purpose of the ministry here. The guitar parts are mostly ethereal like the vocals. In fact, in many places the lyrical nature of the work sounds like another vocal part. This is displayed most noticeably on perhaps the prettiest song on the record, “Speak to Us,” where the guitars and the background vocals melt together so well that it is hard to distinguish them in places. The record is acoustic driven, but supported by the light breakup of electrics that is blues inspired to be sure, but fits perfectly within the songs. The title track, “Children of Light” highlight the bluesy undertones of the guitarist(s) on the record. It really is good stuff. The effect is very pretty and effective. Another welcomed nuance is the volume of the guitars. Kudos to the producers and artists for not burying the delicious guitar tones beneath a haze of instruments. Guitars take the stage when necessary, and as already noted, they become a very important part of the music, as if they were vocalists. And the word I would describe for the tones of the guitars is; luscious. They sound so good, I want to climb inside the amp cabinet and take a nap.
All in all, I was really surprised by Berleson and his Children of Light record. It never gets rowdy, and I assume that is by design. But its like a slow train in its overall drive. It gets you where you want to go, and that is in a great space to hear from God. I will definitely be using this as a tool for quiet times and devotionals. I cannot speak highly enough about this album for its subtle power, poetry, beauty, theology, and insight into the church. The songwriting is top tier, and the production is the same. This will be a go to for me for sure, and I highly recommend it.
Take a listen to the album on David’s site here: https://www.davidrburleson.com/