Producer: Jay DeMarcus
Record Label: Daywind Records
Over the last couple of years, soloists in this Gospel music arena have absolutely been killing it. In 2017, two of the industry’s most critically acclaimed releases came from soloists (i.e. Michael English’s Love Is the Golden Rule and Joseph Habedank’s Resurrection), and many more soloists of the last few years have dominated the Southern Gospel charts (see Misty Freeman, Amber Nelon Thompson, Steve Ladd, Chris Freeman, and more).
2018 is keeping that trend alive with the release of Jason Crabb’s fourth studio solo release Unexpected. I’ll be the first to admit that Crabb’s solo releases haven’t hit me on the same level as his work with the Crabb Family, but Unexpected did as the title suggested and took me by surprise. Crabb (along with producer Jay DeMarcus) has released what is not only the finest release of his career, but possibly the finest solo release in this industry in the last decade.
Crabb is the perfect example of the term “progressive” in this genre. He’s a little too contemporary for traditional fans, too Southern for country fans, and too black gospel for CCM listeners. However, that’s part of what has made Crabb so popular to begin with. His ability to cross genres has given him a unique place in the industry, and he’s gained respect among listeners in all genres of music.
Unexpected kicks off with the rollicking country-meets-black Gospel feel of “Expected the Unexpected.” This is a great album opener, and Jason’s vocals are spot on. “Day One” is an honest and beautiful lyric that shows a vulnerability that Crabb has been known for. It’s also probably the most contemporary, musically, that recalls the likes of Zach Williams or the lighter side of NEEDTOBREATHE.
The early 90s feel of “Chose to Be My Friend” (penned by his father Gerald Crabb) features a fun duet with Rascal Flatts’ Gary LeVox. This kind of song reminds the listener of early Michael English or Jonathan Pierce with it’s inspirational feel and lyric. “Mercy Can’t Go Beyond” continues the genre-hopping by taking up a solid black Gospel feel in the similar vein to early Israel & New Breed or even current Covenant Worship’s David & Nicole Binion with it’s impressive horn arrangement.
Current single “Washed By the Water” is a quirky up-tempo number that features another solid vocal performance from Jason. However, I’m afraid it might be a tad too progressive for Southern Gospel radio. The rockabilly feel of “Love Will Have the Final Word” is a definitive album highlight.
The two songs that really stand above the rest are album closer “The Love In Your Heart Knows the Way” (which features a background choir by several of the next generation Crabb Family daughters) and “Short Are the Years.” The latter is an amazing lyric sure to pull on the heart strings of listeners, particularly parents of teenagers and recent empty-nesters. If there was a Country radio play on this record, this would be the cut to do so.
Overall, Crabb’s Unexpected is a phenomenal release from one of the industry’s best and most respected vocalists. Crabb’s foray as a songwriter (with help from the likes of industry veterans like Kenna West, Tony Wood, Jimmy Yeary, Dave Barnes, Chris Stevens, Gloria Gaynor, and many more) also help the listener see deeper in to his heart, and this is by far his best writing to date. Unexpected is a must own for fans of his work as a soloist as well as his work as a part of the groundbreaking Crabb Family.
Expect the Unexpected
Chose To Be My Friend (with Gary LeVox)
Mercy We Can’t Go Beyond
Let It Be Love (with Kaya Jones)
Short Are the Years
Washed By the Water
He Made You
Love Will Have the Final Word
The Love In Your Heart Knows the Way
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