Whoever decided, in the past 20 years or so, that worship music had to sound like a watered version of the world music genre, did not see Michael Stiles heart for worship. Combining contemporary country pop sensibilities and themes found in worship music, makes for a fresh and exciting package for those who love country, but find that some styles prevent them from truly becoming wrapped up in worship. Breathe Life, his third release, boldly charges in and makes no excuses for loving guitars, twang, and melodic hooks!
Breathe Life‘s songs are filled with sound theology, easy to understand and familiar lyrics. “Breathe Life in Me” starts off this twelve song album with definitive country pop flavor. “Go” ventures into the contemporary worship sound, but delivers out a with an emphasis in response with guitars a blazing! Michael really taps into that contemporary country melodic sound with the toe tapping “Live Love.” This song would be incredibly fun to sing in church, it’s upbeat, Jesus focused, and catchy. Another similar song, “Running After You,” dances along with claps, a bit of a friendly banjo, and fun rhythms.
Not surprisingly, Michael dips his toes into a bit of a bluesy country shuffle with “The Only Way.” Rich organ and bluesy guitar licks paint this track with nice warmth. While this album is well produced, don’t expect the rich country twang vocally. Michael’s tenor voice is similar to a more famous Michael W Smith, minus the breathiness that marked MWS earlier material.
One thing that marks country music is the ability of song writers to say things that have said a million times, and to ‘turn phrases’ in a manner that is clever and says it in a way that brings new light or a fresh point of view. While Michael Stiles uses words that Christians have sung thousands of times in various songs, he is able to turn words around in a few new phrases. The true gem of this album are the melodies, the hooks, and the genuine love for crafting fun worship songs.
Michael’s knack for writing songs does not come as a surprise being that he leads contemporary worship for Connections at Roswell Street Baptist Church.
If country is your ‘thang’ get Breathe Life.