Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Beauty Will Rise is Steven Curtis Chapman's seventeenth studio album, released on November 3, 2009.
Many of the songs on the album are inspired by the accidental death of Chapman's youngest daughter, Maria Sue Chapman. Extensive liner notes by Steven describe how each song was related to the grieving process that he and his family went through after Maria died. The album was produced by Brent Milligan, and initial recordings took place while Chapman was on tour, in various locales such as hotel rooms, backstage dressing rooms, and theatre lobbies. "Beauty Will Rise" is dedicated to Maria Sue. Every time Steven Curtis Chapman and his family talk about Maria they have to fight back tears.
As of December 25, 2009, the album has sold over 81,000 copies. The album debuted at #27 on the US Billboard 200 chart and #1 on the Top Christian Albums chart.
"To fully understand and appreciate the theme for Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman's new album, Beauty Will Rise, you must know the back-story of his daughter's death last year. Chapman's five-year-old daughter, Maria Sue Chunxi Chapman, was killed in a tragic accident in May of 2008 when she was accidentally hit by her brother's SUV pulling into the driveway of their home in Franklin, TN. Ironically, the Chapman's were preparing for a family party celebrating their oldest son's graduation from high school and their daughter's engagement.
Now, a year and a half after this family tragedy, Chapman has released a personal album that is a tribute to his daughter. Fraught with loss, sorrow and sadness, the story is filled at its core with an unwavering belief that she's in a better place. Twelve sometimes heart-wrenching songs deal with a difficult burden and a faith that there's a bigger plan that perhaps we don't fully understand. It leans heavy on simple acoustic guitar orchestration augmented with piano and some strings- a decidedly pure Americana sound.
As a father with a young daughter of his own, Beauty Will Rise is an incredibly moving series of songs that tug at your heartstrings and place you straight in Chapman's own shoes. Through time, faith, support and song, could you ultimately heal from that loss? Or at least begin down that road?
No song is more touching than the piano-based "February 20th." Backed by a haunting cello "singing" harmony behind him, the song recounts the day Chapman and his wife witnessed their young preschooler first pray that someday she would be able to live in God's house. With raw and emotive lyrics, the song is at once inspirational and heartbreaking.
On "See," Chapman questions not his faith, but his senses and his ability to still feel his daughter around him on another emotional roller-coaster of a song. Unafraid to shy away from sharing his true feelings through his songwriter's pen and instruments of music, it's a window to a grief-stricken family and how it must make sense of what can hardly make sense.
And while the album is specifically written from a father's perspective, there's universality to each message that can connect at a soul-level for anyone who has experienced loss. And thus it was for this listener. It moved to the point of tears at two points on the album. Those that don't recognize music as therapy need to hear this album. It's as much about God and faith as about the belief that we live on. For the Chapman's, that means rising up into heaven. For someone else, it might be lifting someone up in memory alone. Borrowing from the lyrics from the title track of the album, "From these ashes, beauty will rise." Long live little Maria- captured forever in beautiful song." -ThatNashvilleSound
"Adversity will make or break people who are forced to endure unthinkable tragedies. When a freak accident took the life of one of Steven Curtis Chapman's little adopted daughters last year, the respected singer/songwriter's world came crashing down. Although Steven began to feel as though he'd never be able to write or sing again, in time he found his voice again and the songs on Beauty Will Rise were born.
On Beauty Will Rise, Chapman opens up his heart for the most personal and most emotional release of his career. The acoustical, organic composition of the songs are wonderfully orchestrated laments mixed with hope and praise as Chapman chronicles his painful struggles and remembers vividly the gift of his beloved daughter. It's a difficult release to endure due to the pain that is woven throughout (I had a lump in my throat through the duration of the album's 12 songs... with each listen), but the inextinguishable hope that Chapman responds to the tragedy and questions with is what makes this album so important. Almost all believers experience faith-shaking moments in their life in some form or another, and to hear Chapman's weary and raw vocals belt out words like "I Will Trust You" ("Trust you God I will Even when I don't understand / Even then I will take in / You are my God / And I will trust You") is an encouragement to us all (if not altogether convicting when we face doubt in times of lesser personal loss).
Beauty Will Rise is unlike any other Steven Curtis Chapman album and unlike any other musical journey I've been taken on. Each song is inspired by the loss of little Maria, often referencing her specifically ("February 20th" is about the day she came to know Jesus, only three months before her passing; "Just Have To Wait" is about Steven longing to see his little girl again in Heaven, etc...), so it's easy to feel Chapman's pain right along with him from song to song. Chapman even addresses the longing for his son to see her again someday, after having accidentally hit her with their car in the family's driveway. The beautiful but painful words, "And I can't wait to watch your brother's face / When he can finally see with his own eyes / That everything's okay" are soaked with forgiveness and hope.
The fact that Chapman is so specific in his chronology of the loss he endured and struggled with may make this record a bit difficult for listeners to apply to their own toil, but it's such a unique record in that it takes the listener to an intensely personal place for Steven and his family. While the Church can sometimes be tempted to put on an "everything's OK" facade, Chapman reminds his brothers and sisters that the questions are only natural and that in our darkest times, if we allow Jesus to be all that we need (and all that we often claim Him to be in our lives), than we can get to know Him on a deeper level than ever before. Words like these from "SEE" are especially moving and encouraging, "But right now all I can say is, 'Lord, how long?' / Before You come and take away this aching / This night of weeping seems to have no end / But when the morning light breaks through / We'll open up our eyes and we will see... / Wait and see / Oh taste and see that the Lord is good / The Lord is good." However, perhaps one of the most personally applicable songs on the record is "Jesus Will Meet You There," a song where Steven uses several difficult scenarios to illustrate that Jesus will be with you through trials. Given the hard road SCC has had to travel in the past year and a half, it brings exceptional weight to a song like this, "He knows the way to wherever you are / He knows the way to the depths of your heart / He knows the way cause He's already been where you're going."
If you have ever needed a ray of hope through tremendous times of trial, Beauty Will Riseis a warm blanket during those cold and desolate times. These songs serve as a beautiful reminder that we are not alone in our darkest hour. Beauty Will Rise is clearly a healing process for Chapman and it's a gift to fans and those taking the lonely road of adversity. And hopefully after you take this journey alongside Steven, you'll be able to sing with him, "Spring is coming (Out of these ashes Beauty Will Rise)! Spring is coming (Sorrow will be turned to joy)! It won't be long (Spring is coming soon)! It's just about here (Spring is coming soon)!"" -JesusFreakHideOut
Billboard (p.60) - "The lyrics are heartbreaking yet hopeful....Chapman's faith remains strong and shines through on songs like 'Our God Is in Control,' 'Faithful'...and the comforting 'Jesus Will Meet You There.'"
Personnel: Steven Curtis Chapman (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, piano, snare drum, percussion, programming, background vocals); Joe Causey (electric guitar, trumpet, piano, Fender Rhodes piano, percussion, programming); Ben Shive (dulcimer, celesta); David Davidson (violin, strings); John Catchings (cello, strings); Brent Milligan (cello, piano, keyboards, drums, cymbals, percussion); Monisa Angell, David Angell (strings); John Painter (horns); Ken Lewis (drums, bass drum, percussion); Richie Biggs (drums, cymbals); Will Franklin Chapman (drums); Scott Sheriff (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: F. Reid Shippen; Russ "Russwell" Long; Richie Biggs.
Recording information: Anderson's Pond, Kingston Springs, TN (04/22/2009/06/06/2009); Faith Assembly Church, Poughkeepsie, NY (04/22/2009/06/06/2009); Little Big Room (04/22/2009/06/06/2009); Locker Room Shower, UK Wildcat's Rupp Arena, Lexington, (04/22/2009/06/06/2009); Murat Theatre, Indianapolis, IN (04/22/2009/06/06/2009); Room 413, Doubletree Hotel, Holland, MI (04/22/2009/06/06/2009); The Anderson's Lake (04/22/2009/06/06/2009); The Laundry Room (04/22/2009/06/06/2009).
Editor: Joe Causey.
Beauty Will Rise is the kind of artistic statement Steven Curtis Chapman wished he had never made. Conceived in the wake of his daughter Maria's death, it finds the golden child of Christian music in the depth of the valley of the shadow, after more than 20 years of music and ministry spent on every imaginable mountaintop. Covered in sackcloth and ashes, Chapman makes no qualms that this is a collection of songs for, about, and inspired by Maria -- a gut-wrenching tribute to the "little girl with dark brown eyes that disappear when she smiles." That line, the very first of Beauty Will Rise, is but a foretaste of the bittersweet yearning Chapman has had to wrestle with since his daughter's passing -- the blessed hope that he'll see her again, the pain it'll be until kingdom come until they reunite. Humanly, Chapman is still mourning, even wailing and beating his chest at times, and those familiar with his tragedy -- which stirred a media maelstrom in 2008 -- can't help but weep with him who weeps. In "Heaven Is the Face," the album's opening track and somber first single, Chapman is so forthright about his grief and longing, you can almost hear him sigh as he sings, "Heaven is a sweet maple syrup kiss / And a thousand other little things I miss with her gone." It's a heartbreaking line, perhaps the most heartbreaking of Chapman's entire career, but it sets the tone for the rest of Beauty Will Rise, an anthology of psalms and laments in the spirit of King David -- praise intermingled with sorrow, resolve in the midst of doubt, hope in the face of uncertainty. For decades, Chapman always had all the answers, but here he lets down his guard and is even willing to dispute his own deep-set convictions, as when he bravely ponders in "Questions," "Who are you, God? / 'Cause you are turning out to be so much different than I'd imagined." Coming from the lips of anyone else, such challenge may seem like business as usual, but for Chapman, one of CCM's brightest, the fist-shaking is as bold and risky as anything the gospel music market has ever seen. Just as bold is Chapman's choice to toss out the adult-contemporary playbook he knows so well and scale things back to the bare essentials -- outside of the sweeping, urgent title track and the stirring "Spring Is Coming," nearly all the songs consist of just Chapman, his guitar, and just the right amount of backing to propel his thoughts forward. In this respect, Beauty Will Rise also works as Chapman's one and only singer/songwriter album to date -- his heart is on display here for all the world to see, Christian radio be damned. No matter how you look at it,Beauty Will Rise is an act of courage and faith -- if not Chapman's best effort yet, certainly the most audacious and compelling of his illustrious two-decade-plus career. Blessed the moment Maria hears it.
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