It’s officially 2013…let the new music releases begin!
My first pick of 2013 is sort of a surprising one; at least, it surprised me. (And you know how much I love surprises!)
When I was initially asked if I would take a listen to the advance releases of Jason Castro’s Only A Mountain and Meredith Andrew’s Worth it All, I very nearly said “Yes, I’d be happy to listen to Meredith Andrew’s project, but I’ll pass on Jason Castro’s.”
Why would you want to do that, you might be asking yourself?
Well, the answer is simple (at least in my mind). I never want to be in a position where I feel compelled to have to say something nice about an artist’s CD that I don’t really like just because someone sent me a free CD in the mail. That may sound super naive to a lot of people, perhaps even dumb, but hey, I’m from Indiana and I’m an inherently nice person.
In other words, I’m no Simon Cowell.
I would rather say nothing at all than write something negative or hurtful, and since this website is entirely my own I get to decide who and what I write about and whether or not I’m nice about it.
With this being said, I had pretty significant reservations about whether or not I would have anything nice to say about Only a Mountain.
Now, I should probably say that I have met Jason Castro and seen him in concert, and to be frank, I thought he was just okay. In retrospect, the biggest problem with meeting Jason Castro when I did was that I met Elias Dummer of the City Harmonic right after, and that was kind of the highlight of my life (besides briefly interviewing TobyMac in December.) Plus, his performance was sandwiched in between performances by Royal Tailor (whom I adore) and Kutless (the likes of whom I said just last week would be my top pick to be stranded on an island with).
So, when I was asked if I would take a listen to Only a Mountain, a few things popped into my head. One, wasn’t he the guy with the dredlocks that played the ukelele at the Star 88.3 Music Stage this past July? The one who had talked during his performance about not having any real vocal training and that he had only sung in public a handful of times before going on American Idol? That one guy with the awe-shucks charm that seemed to smile all the time? (Because you know, you really need to be wary of people who smile all the time 🙂
Yep, that guy. Jason Castro.
After a brief deliberation with my friend Jill (who reminded me how much I ended up liking Chris August’s newest CD when I took a chance and listened to it) and my sister Stacy, the American Idol guru of Indiana, I decided to give Only a Mountain a good old fashioned Spin the Blog spin.
To say that I’m really glad I did is perhaps the understatement of 2013.
My prior reservations about Castro and his vocal chops were quickly put to rest within the first two tracks of Only a Mountain. The places where I once felt Castro seemed to be holding back vocally were filled in with a tenor that is teeming rich with talent. In this sophomore release, he fuses his trademark musical style with a voice that is both vivid and soulful, at times seeming to pop right out of my speakers. With the release of “Only a Mountain”, Castro has clearly found his sound, and it is quite delightfully unlike any other in Christian music.
The title track, Only a Mountain, is the first single to be released from Castro’s CD. In a showdown of mountains between Castro’s Only a Mountain and Brandon Heath’s Cold Mountain, I think Castro’s mountain is the clear winner. It’s a toe tapping, lyrically catchy number, but more than that, it speaks the Truth in non-preachy, down to earth manner that everyone, Christian or not, could relate to.
I absolutely loved the second track on the album, “I Believe.” The lyrics are simple and heartfelt, poetry set to song. This song spoke directly to my heart: “This doesn’t look a thing like I imagined it/When the waters rise it’s easy to forget/Though I don’t understand/You’ve always had your plans/Though I cannot see, I believe/ In my darkest nights you guide me/I believe/When I lose my way, you find me/I believe/When I can’t see anyway out/ I find when I cannot see/ I believe”.
“If Its Love”, the third track on the album, is Castro’s battle cry to fight for a marriage, to fight for love. If you’re married or have ever been married, you’ll relate to this one.
Another song I really liked on Only a Mountain is “Starting Line”. The opening lyrics to “Starting Line” are: “All this time I thought I knew you/Doing all the things I thought I should do/But I missed you all along/Too busy too broke too blind to see/ The one that stood right next to me and loved me thru it all/And why did it have to take so long for me/ To find the real you/ I just opened my eyes/ Oh its like i’m seeing your face for the first time/And we’re strangers now for the last time/I know you now/It feels so good to finally meet you/Face to face/Heart to heart/Eye to eye/Another chance at the starting line”. I think Castro really captures here what a lot of us experience in our relationship with the Lord; for sure, he has captured experiences I’ve had.
“Stay This Way” is in fact my very favorite song on the album; I could listen to this one over and over. This song is one of those great recordings where it all comes together and it is all flawless–Castro’s voice, the lyrics, the music, everything. The song title may be unassuming and somewhat underwhelming, but believe me, this is one song you do not want to live without hearing. Seriously, all songs should stay this way; it is that good of a song.
The sole duet on the album, “Same Kind of Broken”, features Castro singing with the velvety voiced Moriah Peters. The pairing makes a lovely contrast, especially when combined with the sentiments of the song–“So many faces of different colors/So many stories untold/So many places, these streets are numbered/Yet we’re all pieces of a whole big world/We all come alive/We all fall apart/We all need someone to love us where we are/What if we all took a minute/To look at one another and lay our differences aside/We would find that we are the same kind/The same kind of broken.”
“Safehouse”, the seventh track on the album, is another one of my favorites. So many times, I go to concerts to find brochures for fantastic organizations like Compassion International and the like, but other than “Safehouse” I can only think of two other songs off the top of my head by big name singers that actually address the needs of individuals that organizations like this serve (MercyMe & Matthew West, in case you were wondering). I like the fact that this song doesn’t pitch the idea that you have to run out and try to save the entire world, either; just try to touch one life, make a difference to one person. A very well done call to action.
The anthemic “Runaway” is the 8th track on Only a Mountain. This song continues on in the upbeat and positive tradition of “Starting Line” and “If It’s Love”.
“Enough” is a really sweet, emotionally evocative song. If I were to guess, Castro draws on his experience as a new father to his daughter in this song based on the opening lyric “You’ve got you’re mother’s eyes.” I think all the daughters (and sons) of the world should take listen of this song, and know that they are loved and enough. Now, I know I’ve said practically every song on this album is one of my favorites, but “Enough” is no exception. I love it!
The second to the last song on the album, “Rise to You,” is another winner. Great sound, great lyrics, and is currently kind of stuck in my head.
“Good Love” is a fun, happy tune to end Only a Mountain on. I love the lyric “It’s a good love/Good love/Nothing you would change about it/Bigger than your hands can hold/But it fits just like a glove“. That right there is some sweet songwriting!
I have to give major kudos to Castro not just for his stronger, more complex vocal stylings on this sophomore release, but to also give him props for his contemplative, completely genuine writing on this album. (Castro either wrote or co-wrote every song on “Only a Mountain”).
Of this project, Castro recently said “I really can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about my new album, Only a Mountain. I’ve had some amazing things happen to me recently–marrying my wife, the birth of our daughter–and now this. Life really is beautiful, and that’s what I want people to be reminded of when they listen to these new songs.”
Between the amalgamation of sincere lyrics and the revelation of his true inner voice, I think it is safe to say Castro has more than achieved his wish with “Only a Mountain.”
While Castro’s debut CD may have been entitled “Who I Am,” with the release of “Only a Mountain” he really begins to show us just exactly who he is–an incredibly gifted musician and songwriter with a bright and compelling future ahead of him.
“Only a Mountain”, Jason Castro’s debut full length CD with Word Entertainment, will be available wherever music is sold Tuesday, January 15th, 2013. Also, make plans to see Jason in concert as he is currently on tour with WinterJam 2013 alongside TobyMac, Red, Matthew West, Jamie Grace, Newsong, Royal Tailor, Sidewalk Prophets, OBB, and Capital Kings. www.JamTour.com
Special Thanks to Warner Music Group/Word Entertainment for providing Spin: The Blog with an advance release copy of “Only a Mountain” for this review.