CD review: “Believer” best effort from Kutless

Jon Mic­ah Sumer­all, lead­er singer of Kut­less, dis­plays a wide vocal range with the band’s new release Believ­er | Pho­to by Eliza Marie Somers

Growth suits Kut­less well. It’s been a plea­sure to watch the guys from Ore­gon expand musi­cal­ly and spir­i­tu­al­ly in the last five years or so. I first saw them at Music in the Rock­ies when the band was liv­ing out of their vehi­cles tour­ing the West.

Jon Mic­ah Sumrall’s voice is stronger and much more refined from the raw tal­ent of just a few years ago. This was evi­dent on the last CD, “What Faith Can Do,” and car­ries over to “Believ­er,” which will be released Feb. 28.
* True sto­ry, while lis­ten­ing to Kut­less’ last CD “What Faith Can Do,” there were numer­ous times that I stopped what I was doing to see who was play­ing on my CD play­er. (Yea, I still like the hard copies.) I didn’t rec­og­nized the band because of its devel­op­ment.

The lyrics on “Believ­er” are thought-pro­vok­ing, mov­ing, and request­ing change — some­thing we need in this day and age of sense­less school shoot­ings and such. And the music is a lesson in diver­si­ty from bal­lads to the band’s hard-rock rhythm to a song that has tinges of Lady Ante­bel­lum.

With the first release from “Believ­er” — “Car­ry Me to the Cross” — Sum­rall car­ries his notes well while prais­ing the Lord for car­ry­ing him through life’s ups and downs. The wor­ship bal­lad starts with a few piano notes and Sum­rall singing:
When the path is daunt­ing
and every step is exhaust­ing,
I’m not alone. I’m not alone.

Words that dis­play the band’s growth spir­i­tu­al­ly. Each instru­ment is added indi­vid­u­al­ly to reach a cre­san­do.

Kut­less offers up oth­er bal­lads with “Come Back Home” and “Even If,” which uses strings to sup­ple­ment Sumrall’s voice and tame the gui­tars and big drum sounds. 

A Kut­less CD would not be com­plete with­out the band’s trade­mark rock beat, and the guys deliv­er on “Need” and “If It Ends Today.”
A dri­ving gui­tar gets the lis­ten­er going in “Need” and car­ries through­out and turns into a head-shak­ing, body-mov­ing tune with duel­ing gui­tars while plead­ing:
“Help me God I do believe, I feel lost it’s killing me, I need you right now. God please answer me, I know you are here but hard to see, I need you right now.” 

If it Ends Today,” is sure to be a con­cert favorite with its raw feel that asks fans to rise up and be the gen­er­a­tion that spreads the Gospel and to raise their hands if you’re not afraid if it ends today. Stand up, the time is now. This is one of my favorites on the six-song sam­pler I acquired.

A nice sur­prise is “Iden­ti­ty.” I got a fun coun­try feel from it — almost like a hint of Lady Ante­bel­lum. I don’t know why … but I hear a smooth South­ern rock style with breath­less vocals and key­boards.

Pro­duc­er David Lubben, a vocal per­for­mance major in col­lege, pushed Sum­rall through­out the record, and it shows in the lead singer’s range and strength. It’s the best I’ve heard him. And the song­writ­ing is diverse and solid, you won’t find fluffy or repet­i­tive ele­men­tary lyrics here. 

It makes you pon­der what the future holds for the band and how it will affect its fans. A bright future indeed.
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