Andrew Farstar – Hymns & Inspiration – Album Review
I’ve had the opportunity & honor to check out a whole bunch of artist Andrew Farstar’s songs over these past couple years – most recently with a handful of his latest singles from earlier this month that we reviewed here at the homepage. While I can vouch for the consistent quality that’s always been prevalent & thrived within Andrew’s music…I also don’t think he’s made a record quite like this before; when you hear an artist end up in the exact spot where they truly belong, it’s something you can hear. Even as a person as on the outside of religion as I might be myself, listening to Farstar’s passionate connection to his faith and the beautiful way he sings the songs on Hymns & Inspiration reveals not only a different side of his sound/music – but it’s so gloriously dedicated & focused to its mission & message that it reveals a new level of Andrew’s potential to connect to the hearts & minds of those who listen.
And I suppose that would include myself even. I’ve always enjoyed listening to Farstar’s music, but I guess what I’m essentially saying here & surprised-by myself, is that I think this is my favorite set of songs from him so far without question. Dude sounds completely fantastic on Hymns & Inspiration.
A lot of that comes from the sound of sincerity & inspiration you’ll find flowing throughout this set-list. The vibrant & lively way Hymns & Inspiration begins with such remarkable celebratory spirit on display with “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee / Let Us Praise Him” at the beginning of the record sounds so beautifully connected, natural, and genuine…you can absolutely hear the dedicated & faithful follower Farstar is with his religion, and how open & welcoming a song like this creates a call to join him in that. It’s the authenticity of his belief that’ll grab you just as much as the way he approaches this medley and the pure joy & love that soar throughout this opening tune; he makes an impact immediately through the strength of His message and a wonderful call to worship that blissfully welcomes everyone in. The high-quality standards of musicianship, vocals, and instrumentation that you’ve come to know and love from Andrew are fully intact, complete with a guitar-solo and choir backing-vocals to bring it all home; if you’re listening closely, the melody on the surface sparkles 100%, but the bass is the unsung hero here of “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee / Let Us Praise Him,” providing essential rhythm & groove to this tune.
“This Road” will take the sound of Hymns & Inspiration into more depth of emotion through the thought-provoking words & soulful way that Farstar sings this second song on his new album. While I don’t have a ton of comparisons I could make to faith-based music that’s out there right now…I’d say that listeners out there would find comparable sounds in the mainstream that would be similar to like, Josh Groban, or what the band Keane often creates through their epic mastery of majestic melodies. Andrew puts his heart into this tune and brings the meaning to the words through his energy & tone of voice, finding a perfect way of hitting the big notes when they’re called for and keeping his cool & control when the lyrics expose a more internal style of expression…he makes smart choices as a singer. Even in the vocalizations outside of the main lyrics and hooks, he continually finds ways to insightfully connect his words to the heart & soul of listeners out there…that amazing sincerity & passion he brings to his music & career reaches a spectacularly colorful, bright, and bold finale at the end of “This Road.”
The mix of traditional sounds & instrumentation that flows so brilliantly throughout this record plays a huge role in the cohesion & strengths between the material, no matter how subtle it may be. Like the atmospherically-inclined, strings & piano combination you’ll find on “It Is Well With My Soul” has that uplifting sound that rises & falls flawlessly, giving Andrew every opportunity to make an impact through the shifting dynamics of how much is either in the music, or out of it. If it swells to its fullest, he’s ready with his boldest & strongest notes…and if the sound disappears around him, he knows how to maximize those moments for us as listeners as well. There’s a genuinely humble sweetness in his approach to this song that sounds like true harmony in motion, right there on display for all to hear…Farstar proves what a giving artist he is by pouring his heart into every moment of this song and soothing the masses with such a revelatory experience. There’s an entire community of faith-based music lovers that will adore what Andrew’s achieved with this record…subtle-yet-powerful songs like “It Is Well With My Soul” and tunes like “Prayer (Bunessan)” & “Panis Angelicus” later on, reveal just how captivating he can be through some of the most beautifully intimate & close-up moments you’ll find on Hymns & Inspiration.
Continuing on with a gentle sound & approach, “Day By Day” offers a whole other dimension of sweet sentiment and offers words of wisdom, comfort, and kindness throughout its ambitions & intentions. I’ll say this…it’s a quaint, pleasant, and inoffensive tune from beginning to end that’s soothing to listen to – it definitely has that working for it; as to whether or not it’s almost too relaxed & laidback to stand out as prominently as it should on an album full of wall-to-wall great tunes…that’s honestly harder to say. I suspect the gentle nature of “Day By Day” and its beautiful array of vibrant voices backing-up Andrew so brilliantly with their uplifting vibes & stunning talent will likely be one of those songs that the people come back to on repeat spins through Hymns & Inspiration to find they enjoy more & more as time goes on. Every record needs a strong supporting cast of songs that’ll keep the quality & consistency in-line in between those tunes that we find make the biggest impact on us – “Day By Day” is that reliable tune.
Where I felt like Andrew revealed what might very well be my favorite performance from him, was on “Prayer (Bunessan)” – this is exquisite, straight-up. I was endlessly impressed by this song and just how fascinatingly beautiful it truly is…Andrew is more than magnificent on “Prayer (Bunessan)” – he completely shows you exactly why he’s been able to do what he loves for as long as he has already with a stunning performance that’s 100% award-worthy. With mainly a piano to guide him along & nothing more – Farstar proves a minimal setting is all he ever needs to make a maximum impact – his vocals on “Prayer (Bunessan)” might very well be some of the most beautiful sounds I’ve EVER heard, nevermind on this one song! The backing-vocals here also deserve a whole ton of credit too…hearing the way that this song transitions from Andrew’s lead to the chorus-style singing that comes in around the 1:45 mark, is again, one of the most magical moments you’ll hear in music this year, if not of all-time…it’s a spectacular shift in sound that adds a powerfully uplifting & memorable highlight that leads to Farstar’s own boldest moments as he takes “Prayer (Bunessan)” back into the main melodic hooks of the song & to its outstanding conclusion. Andrew mesmerizes on this song…I truly can’t say enough about the way he sings “Prayer (Bunessan)” – this is that time-stopping moment we all hope to hear on ANY record.
Bringing in some of his Pop-like inspirations from music he’s made outside of his faith-based tunes, “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms” would be a tough song for the people out there to resist – this is just relentlessly sweet, charming, and welcoming at all times – who would even TRY to resist that, and why? Plus you’ll find a really cool guitar solo in this song that I can only describe as a solo I’ve honestly never heard before…I know that seems like a given, but you’ll get what I mean – so many of those moments come out with a typical progression & sound…even though this moment on the song is super-short, its uniqueness really stands out for all the right reasons. I think there’s a great chance that this particular cut on Hymns & Inspiration might offer a few listeners out there a different access point into this album – and in that sense, might be a good one to put out there to lead people into the record. It’s full of colorful, bright, sweet, and sincere melody that radiates from every pore of your speakers from the music to the microphone…I feel like the people out there will really connect with the charm of this tune.
“Joyful / Praise (Interlude)” welcomes back the beautiful vibes & voices from the first song on Hymns & Inspiration, this time bringing everyone to the nature of the outside world to enhance its all-inclusive intentions. This was yet another fantastic idea that you’ll find on this album that makes a huge difference in how well this record flows and ties the material together – “Joyful / Praise (Interlude)” puts a fresh take and a whole new spin on how this song was approached at the outset of the record. Even though it’s the shortest track on Hymns & Inspiration, you’ll absolutely be impressed by the impact it makes…something about the birds chirping, the ambiance of this entire vibe, and the powerful unity you’ll find expressed through the voices singing out to the heavens above between them, really becomes a remarkable moment of its own that adds a warm & welcoming cohesion to this album.
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in past reviews I’ve written on Farstar’s music, he’s a truly world-class singer. When you hear how flawlessly he hits each and every note of a song like “Abide With Me,” you’d have to wonder how any set of ears out there wouldn’t be able to connect with him on one level or another. If you dig on the religious thing, then right on…believe me, there’s lots for you here within the songs on this album – but even if you didn’t, or even if the style of the music itself wasn’t your normal jam – hearing the spot-on way that Andrew can sing songs like “Abide With Me” with such professional strength, control, grace, and remarkable tone should still entice you in to listen & give an effort like this a minute or two of your time at the very least. He’s put in multiple impressive performances, time after time, track after track on this experience so far – and yet still, highlights like “Abide With Me” continue to reveal themselves in the depths of this quality set-list…this would definitely be right up there with the best of the best from Farstar’s album in my opinion. His professionalism, control, precision, and tone are quite honestly jaw-dropping when he’s at his most graceful…and I’d definitely argue this is that.
Arguably the most kumbaya-esque moment of the album will come through the longest cut on Hymns & Inspiration on the more than five-minute long “More Like Jesus.” You can definitely pick up on that sing-along aspect the potential of a song like this would have in a worship setting…which has its own charm for sure. You also get more modernized moments as well like the guitar solo in the third-minute…you’ll find excellent drums in “More Like Jesus” as well…as usual, the instrumentation surrounding Andrew Farstar is always top-shelf and everything sounds perfectly played, produced, & mixed right to where it should be. He takes on a very subdued, innocent, and honest melody as the song begins…almost timid in that James Taylor-esque sound before it begins to swell and let the sunshine into this expressive tune. There’s a good chance this particular tune probably appeals a bit more specifically to the devout than some of the rest of this record’s potential to reach out beyond the religious community…the proclamations of faith, love, and admiration for the Lord & Savior are definitely at their maximum here. For some, I have no doubt that these same reasons will make a welcoming & comforting song like “More Like Jesus” the number-one go-to favorite; with so much of this record being made for the faith-based music lovers out there, you’ve gotta admire just how well this comes out in that respect…they’ll love it.
For myself personally, the more isolated & intimate the sound, the more captivating the results have been for me to listen to. Songs like “Prayer (Bunessan)” from beforehand, or “Panis Angelicus” towards the end of the album…these have been some of the most impressively massive highlights on an album, and all through some of the record’s most gentle sounds. In the case of “Panis Angelicus,” Farstar’s gone with a much more traditionally-inclined approach…and I can’t say I blame him at all for that; while he still undoubtedly charms, sparkles, and shines through his own vocals & sound – it was smart to not fuss too much with any kind of full-on redesign of such a beloved classic. When a song is as remarkably stunning as “Panis Angelicus” is, what’s always going to leave the biggest impression on listeners is just how close an artist can recreate this moment we all share, know, and love, to the nth degree of its original design – that’s where Farstar shows just how capable he is, delivering some of his best yet again. Delicate & bold in all the right spots – Andrew dazzles with another immaculate highlight on this record.
Hymns & Inspiration will drift out gorgeously to the end through truly emotional instrumental songs. Outstanding job on “Nearer My God To Thee” – the amount of insightful, heartfelt connection that swirls, soars, and flows so gracefully throughout this song captures its original essence perfectly. Beautiful to listen to from the moment it begins so humbly & sweet to the more epic & majestic-moments you’ll find towards the end, with each minute revealing more magic within this instrumental. I think Farstar has made excellent choices throughout the entire length of this record’s incredible lineup of material – but ending it without any words speaks almost louder than anything else on behalf of his musicianship, song choice, and overall attention to detail for what he envisioned Hymns & Inspiration to sound like…how he imagined it would be experienced by all of us listeners out there around the globe.
All this amazing stuff…all these great songs…all these incredible performances from Andrew Farstar throughout Hymns & Inspiration…and SOMEHOW…I think there’s an argument to be made that the very best song you’ll find on this album could be right there at the very end, barely over two-minutes long. “It Is Well (Outro)” is a breathtakingly beautiful gem on this record…I couldn’t take my ears off of this. The nature & ambient sounds come back into the background; a symbol of Andrew’s connection to the Earth and to the beauty God has provided for him in such abundance that you can find on a couple key spots on this album he’s created. “It Is Well (Outro)” and the scattered emotion-filled piano notes are absolutely, 100% exquisite to listen to…like, there’s just no duplicating a moment like this…ever. Preserving a crystalline sweetness that puts a stunningly fragile-yet-strong idea on display for all to hear – I could listen to this last song all day, every day, for the rest of time, and I’d never regret my choice. The exceptional beauty you’ll find glowing in the captivating way Farstar creates this conclusion ends the album on a such an extraordinary & enchanting final highlight that, as subtle as it is, you still want to stand up and cheer for the perfection you’ll find on “It Is Well (Outro)” and its powerfully gentle design.
Honestly impressive stuff from Andrew Farstar here on this album, all-around from beginning to end. I fully believe that when YOU believe, and you’re truly proud of your faith, you wear it like this artist does. Right from the very first song to the last, Andrew shows an unwavering faith and strength in his commitment to this record…not a doubt in my mind that this is the best I’ve heard from him so far.
Find the new album Hymns & Inspiration by Andrew Farstar at his Spotify page here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/4VNIES74VX9mO2lcX0F29z
Join the thousands of bands & artists reviewed at sleepingbagstudios by clicking here!