Brittany Craft – Welcome Home

 Brittany Craft – Welcome Home

Brittany Craft – Welcome Home – Album Review

Whole lotta soul, whole lotta heart, whole lotta passion for music in the sound of Brittany Craft’s faith-based songs on her new album Welcome Home – she’s got a fresh energy that works fantastically with her emotionally powerful melodies and carefully crafted tunes.  As I’ve often mentioned on these pages of ours, Christian Contemporary is certainly in need of a champion or two for the genre out there right now…and after a thorough listening to Welcome Home, there’s a good chance Brittany could fill that void.  Inside & outside of faith, there’s a lot for people to listen to that they’ll connect to in her music.

I mean, if I’m being truthful, she pretty much had me right from the drop of note one when “First Love” began.  I had no real idea of what to expect other than the faith-based aspect of her writing, but as to what she’d sound like, what the music would be like – it could have been anything.  So when “First Love” began, and she started the song with a partial rendition of “Amazing Grace,” I thought I might actually be in for an entire lineup of traditional tunes for a moment there.  Even more odd – I felt like I would have been completely fine with that!  Brittany immediately sounds excellent in the sparse acoustic atmosphere of her version of “Amazing Grace” in the intro of “First Love” – right away you can hear her putting everything she’s got into her vocals and it makes all the difference in the world.  Great burst of energy as the song kicks-in to gear and Brittany takes her music into original terrain, sounding bold, sounding bright, sounding confident in the strong tones of her voice…it all adds up quickly to make a solid first impression.  The music surrounding her is equally excellent – in particular, the drums sound absolutely awesome…and again, if I’m being completely honest, I can’t even remember if or when the last time I heard Christian Contemporary where I was like, ‘hey…those drums though…stellar right?’  Like I said…the genre can use a champion or two…it’s been a while.  “First Love” has excellent vibes running through its melody; at its most full, it’s wildly entertaining – and at the song’s most subtle moments, Brittany seems to shine at her brightest.

A song like “All Of My Days” makes her faith known and unmistakable.  Certainly ain’t nothing wrong with that – that’s how you stay true to your beliefs best by putting them right out there for all to hear.  That being said, the natural effect of writing in such a dedicated way will have an effect on the audience that she’ll reach with a song like “All Of My Days” – but…in my opinion, people in general could stand to be a lot more open to the music they listen to.  As many of you already know, I’m not a religious guy myself, though I was raised that way as a young kid…I still admire most of the values it teaches and have always done my best to be polite, respectful, and kind.  I don’t think these are prerequisites to being able to listen to or enjoy Brittany’s music…I suppose that’s what I’m saying.  Will you get more out of a tune like “All Of My Days” if you are a faith-based person?  I’d probably say 100% yes to that – but I’d also challenge the rest of you out there that aren’t of faith, to simply listen.  Not a complicated request really…and I promise you it definitely won’t hurt ya…just be open to music of all kinds and value the gift of expression & the benefits that a true connection to the words can bring out in a singer like Brittany.  Essentially, what I’m telling you is, the melody, harmonies, hooks, structure…it’s all incredibly universal; Brittany sounds completely vibrant and full of technique & organic talent…how could anyone not appreciate that, know what I mean?  Doesn’t matter what you believe in…when a song sounds good, a song sounds good…can’t dispute that just because it doesn’t lineup with where you worship or don’t.  “All Of My Days” sounds inspired, powerful, bold, committed, devout…you can tell that Brittany believes in every word that she’s singing, and again, it certainly makes a difference to our ears when we listen.  That level of commitment is compelling to listen to…and the hooks are mighty strong…I dig this tune.

I also really appreciate the mix of emotions that she dives into on Welcome Home…because I think she’s really made some choices that should stand out.  For many people out there, the idea of anything faith-based suggests a happy rhythm on the acoustic and a whole lot of praising the Lord – but as many of you know, and as Brittany obviously knows as well – true faith runs much deeper than that.  The bond itself can never be broken…so naturally questioning the fabric of that faith and how strong it is, or examining the melancholy emotions that life can take us into without fear of damaging that faith, can actually result in really extraordinary & powerful moments.  “Can You Hear Me?” is one of those moments for certain…I think this came out exceptionally well for Brittany and shows her in a really honest & vulnerable light that’s truly beautiful.  “Can You Hear Me?” is based on a personal experience she had with a respected friend that was battling depression with self-harm…tough stuff to say the very least.  As it is for many of you out there, music is therapy…an outlet to express what we often can’t say directly in words as readily as they come to an artist through songs.  Sweet intentions, gorgeous melody, smart move by switching up the sound of the music from the acoustic guitar-based songs and into a piano-led tune…I’ve been enjoying every moment in both styles so far, but that switch in direction definitely assists the album as a whole as well…keeps it moving, keeps it versatile, and makes moments like “Can You Hear Me?” stand out that 10% more to really make that impact & let us absorb the music & words.

Guitars have been outstanding throughout the album as well for the record…some wild & skillful solos in those first two tunes, and on a song like “Façade” they really stand out for their clarity.  Love the selection of chords, love the tone, love the strength in the songwriting here…awesome ideas in the backing vocals and how they lead into the ray of instrumental energy that bursts through the middle of “Façade.”  Brittany’s got like…a near Alanis approach to this tune; which I suppose, really shouldn’t be that surprising in a way…Alanis is quite a spiritual artist herself, and again, regardless of who or what it is you’re connecting to – when that bond is established in the writing, music, and performance – the results should in theory come out somewhat equally spectacular, should they not?  I think so…and I think they do for Brittany on “Façade” – I think this track worked out really well for her too.  Welcome Home has quite a strong front-half with “Can You Hear Me?,” “Façade,” and “Higher Than I” all in a row.  “Façade” is a really well balanced tune that gives a lot of space to the musicianship & instrumentation as well as the vocals…the floating & dreamy vibe is increasingly uplifting & builds to a fantastic finale.  Bonus points for the subtle percussion in this song…another solid reason to get into the music here.

Brittany’s got a voice that could easily find success in any genre she could have chosen…so believe me when I say, faith-based music is lucky to have her.  Now…SHE is not gonna be the one to tell you that of course, cause she’ll be all humble about it & whatnot…but that’s what people like me are here for.  She’s a true talent and really has an amazing voice…LISTEN to how she takes on “Higher Than I” – because that’s how you make the magic happen on the mic right there is what that is.  I’ll say this – I’m liking the acoustic stuff and I know that’s her regular jam…but each time she switches it up to a piano-led tune like on “Higher Than I” or “Can You Hear Me?” it’s noticeable in all the right ways; her voice is really well suited for that style of sound.  On “Higher Than I” I felt like she displays all the right instincts of a genuine superstar here…there’s brilliant professional restraint and control in the song’s most tender and delicate moments – and when it’s go-time and she needs to pull out the big notes, she seems to be able to do so without a moment’s hesitation.  It’s kind of got like…a mix of like…what is that Brittany?  It’s like…kind of an almost Cyrus-inspired tone & attitude…that inspiring & uplifting sound that occurs through a storm of genuinely real & raw emotions & heavy thoughts…like “The Climb” has.

“What A Soldier” tells quite an interesting tale.  Based on PFC Travis J. Grigg who had been killed in Iraq, Brittany’s father was in charge of bringing the soldier’s body home to be laid to rest on American soil.  Throughout the years to follow, her father would tell her stories of the inspiring life Travis had led and his dedication to his country.  Far too many souls expire out on the battlefield without anyone even blinking an eye; while we often recognize and thank them for their service, due to the large numbers of names from those honorable enough to serve that have passed on, it’d be nearly impossible to memorize them all.  Those memories, live on through all of the people that have known these fallen soldiers…which to me, makes it all the more special that an artist like Brittany would have taken the time to write this.  As a reviewer that listens to everything…believe me when I say I spend far too much time listening to either something I feel like I’ve heard before, or something that says nearly nothing at all…so to hear something with this much focus & heart is actually quite refreshing.  I have a few moments on this particular cut where I’m a little at odds with some of the tones to the vocals in the chorus, but overall, I think Brittany’s done another exceptional job and created another powerful song to remember on Welcome Home.  I think she nails the verses and puts brilliant imagery into the words throughout the songs…I think the big notes of the chorus are just about the biggest mountain to climb as a singer; there’s no doubt she’s written an extremely challenging part to take on, but she does it all fearlessly and puts tremendous emotion into her vocals.  I think you can hear that she’s just getting to where she wants to go by a fraction of a breath – but at the end of the day, I think she pulled it off.  Bottom line is that “What A Soldier” is a seriously engaging song to listen to no matter what angle you listen to it from…either the big hooks will grab your attention or the incredible words she’s written will.

Full confession from me…I can tell from about five seconds of a song like “Waiting For You” that it’s likely going to be my favorite song on an album…so take my enthusiasm here with a grain of salt and understand that the melody style she’s working with is the exact kind that appeals to me personally.  And there’s a good chance that this IS my favorite cut on Welcome Home…writing-wise.  Performance wise, I’m on the fence with this one; there are moments, particularly again in the verses, where Brittany sounds at her most magnificent without question – there are real highlights that exist for her in the dramatically-inclined style of “Waiting For You” – but there are also a few moments where you can again hear a bit of trepidation or apprehension that you didn’t hear in the opening five tunes of this record.  All that being said, aside from a couple lines where searching for a rhyme or two might have cost her a little in authentic sincerity, I think she’s really written a melody that connects.  If I was to offer my advice on this particular track…I’d say go with a remix and a softer approach, even in the chorus; I think this fragile & delicate melody she’s written has a beautifully intimate and sweet sound – at this point on Welcome Home, we definitely know Brittany is more than capable of hitting the big-big notes when she’s at her most focused…I think dialing it back for a tender tune like this might be the answer.  The flow, structure, ideas…it’s all there though, don’t get me wrong; Brittany is definitely looking for that moment to provide that uplifting burst of energy and take songs to that next-level, and I appreciate that…but in my personal opinion, I think there’s still a bit more to the soft-side of this particular melody to be explored and potentially an even more complementary match between the vocals & music.

I think that a song like “Reason For My Song” might need to battle a bit harder for your attention at first by comparison to some of the strong hooks you’ll find in the first half of this record – but I also think that this song is one of the ones that’ll hold up the longest over time.  In terms of what’s going to separate Brittany apart from the rest out there, it’s tunes like “Reason For My Song” that are going to make the difference…because listen to how real this is!  I think she’s written an important song – one that someone out there is going to hear at some point when they really need to hear words like these – and I think that’s quite the accomplishment.  Maybe she’ll find out one day, maybe she’ll just have to take some solace and comfort in the fact that songs like these WILL find the ears that need to hear them most without ever knowing who the ears belong to…but the facts remain the same – “Reason For My Song” is relevant & relatable.  In my opinion, Brittany’s being incredibly open & honest with you all on this track…she’s struggling in the narrative of the storyline & words that run through this tune – but if you listen closely, you can hear her summon the strength see needs from the bond with her faith.  Focused songwriting at work here once again, the flow & structure of this song brilliantly reflects the sentiment of the words and she finds an insightful way to match her music to the lyrics of “Reason For My Song.”  Bonus points to the organ solo and percussion…tough to outshine the star of this song and the attention to detail in the songwriting when it comes right down to it overall though.

I feel much the same about the importance of a song like “Be Still” for the faith-based audience awaiting Brittany’s music out there…this is the kind of song that approaches religion from a realistic perspective that people will be able to relate to strongly.  In terms of songwriting in general, I think she’s done a fantastic job of expressing herself once again on this tune…very good chance that this is one of my favorites on this entire record really.  There’s been a great use of harmonies to support Brittany’s lead vocals throughout Welcome Home and I think there’s more fantastic use of them here as the song swells and expands into a much more grandiose sound than the innocent & isolated tones from where it began.  Again, if you’re listening, this reflects the words…it’s important to note that, no matter what thoughts or questions are on her mind, Brittany’s faith never wavers and she always incorporates the light of hope within each of these tunes in really insightful ways, whether that’s through the music or through the words, there’s always an empowering attitude and uplifting aspect of her material.  Well executed from beginning to end, “Be Still” is a great combination of sounds from piano to strings accompanying the gentle rhythm and tender approach that grows bolder & bolder as Brittany finds the strength she’s always been searching for was right by her side all along.  Really well written tune.

As far as the end of this album is concerned…the final track “It Is Well” – how do I say this Brittany?  I want a whole lot MORE of this!  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a logical move from where he sound has been set throughout the album, but it also undeniably takes everything up one final notch further to end the record on conclusive highlights.  You name it, this song absolutely HAS it…Brittany has completely pushed herself creatively to new heights on this last track.  ”It Is Well” is the kind of final switch in sound that is quite literally breathtaking…the instrumentation is AMAZING…the selection of sounds is second to none…the part that Brittany takes on around the four-minute mark ends up being perhaps her boldest & most powerful moments on the entire album as she sings out the album’s title in the song’s grand finale.  As far as I’ve read, “It Is Well” is actually based on the original hymn by Horatio G. Spafford – and the story behind the song is seriously heartbreaking.  When her uncle passed on in 2012, she found herself coming back to this particular hymn and associated all kinds of relevant, personal, and new meanings to what the words were saying…and eventually, ended up adding her own perspective and thoughts to the end to complete the story in the song as she was hearing it all along.  In terms of raising the stakes one last time before an album is finished, “It Is Well” holds up easily with some of the best endings to any record you can think of…I think this last song is beyond-words-spectacular and offers a real glimpse of the spectacular sound, style, and singing that Brittany Craft can bring to music at her most creative & expressive.  Brilliant ending to an album that’s highly worthwhile to listen to.

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