Recording information: FabMusic, Franklin, TN; The Studio, Franklin, TN.
Photographer: Kristin Barlowe.
Try as they might to keep up with the times, most Christian artists and producers tend to remain about five years (or more) behind current music trends. Which is what makes the second album by singer/songwriter Holly Starr such a pleasant surprise. The young Washington-based artist doesn't try to squeeze her songs of praise and love into dubstep trappings, but rather uses modern production techniques, and an ardent love of pop and country, to create an album that sounds as vibrant and heartfelt as anything Taylor Swift has attempted in her career. What makes Starr potentially even more successful -- artistically speaking -- than Swift, is that she stays well within her wheelhouse throughout Focus. She keeps her warm soprano at a tempered level, letting the emotion of the songs creep around their edges. As well, the songs here exude warmth, using acoustic guitar and restrained, programmed beats to comforting effect. The tempos don't creep over the same BPM as your sitting heart rate, but that only serves to make it that much more listenable. Starr's lyrics are her only potential failing. She sticks to pretty well-worn ideas about faith, and love songs that, were it not for the invocation of God, could be her singing about a boyfriend. Thankfully, Starr's commitment to these songs and the surrounding musical accompaniment helps make these rather soft words much easier to swallow. ~ Robert Ham