CD review: Jimmy Needham’s Clear the Stage

Jim­my Need­ham didn’t just clear the stage with his new CD by the same name — he cleared his music slate. 

Need­ham, who has been com­pared with Jack John­son, rein­vents him­self on “Clear the Stage” with the help of pro­duc­er Ed Cash (Chris Tom­lin, Lau­ra Sto­ry, Aaron Shust). The album includes fun, high-ener­gy music, along with his trade­mark soul­ful and thought­ful sound. 

The Tex­as native expands his musi­cal tal­ents with the first track, “I Will Find You” as he mix­es it up with rap­per LeCrae, who attend­ed George Wash­ing­ton High in Den­ver. You will find your feet tap­ping and body gyrat­ing with this tune. 

Stay,” fea­tur­ing Lizi Bai­ley, is an acoustic duet backed by an orches­tra. (I’m a suck­er for strings.) Bailey’s voice adds a nice dimen­sion to Need­ham in this love song, a sur­prise because I would not have imag­ined the­se two togeth­er.

My Vic­to­ry” is a wor­ship song that calls upon the lis­ten­er to not look back and to live freely in God’s grace. 

You are the hope that broke the dark in me.
“You are the light the shi­nes when I can’t see.
“You are, you are, you are my vic­to­ry.”

Rock Bot­tom” and “In the Mid­dle” melds Needham’s rhythm and blues sound with a rap vibe that adds depth to the album.

The final track — Ross King’s “Clear the Stage” — is the only song on the album not writ­ten by Need­ham, and hits the musi­cian right between the eyes.

The first time I heard this song as a high school stu­dent, it wrecked me,” Need­ham said in a news release. ” I don’t think any­one can be the same per­son after hear­ing that song.”

And he’s right. King’s lyrics call for clear­ing the stage (or life) of all the clut­ter that is tak­ing your eyes off God. 

Any­thing I put before my God is an idol.
Any­thing I want with all my heart is an idol.
Any­thing I can’t stop think­ing of is an idol.
Any­thing that I give all my love is an idol.
We must not wor­ship some­thing that’s not even worth it.
Clear the stage and make some space for the one who deserves it.” 

There’s a nuance I try to cap­ture in every record, but this one was a lot more eclec­tic the­mat­i­cal­ly,” Need­ham said in the release. “All of the facets of my per­son­al life keep lead­ing me to an expand­ing view of Christ; mar­riage to my wife Kel­ly, our daughter’s birth, and the mis­car­riages we expe­ri­enced before our daughter’s birth. In all of the­se things, and in every way I attempt to nav­i­gate life, my only sat­is­fac­tion — the only true answers — will be found in Christ.”

I enjoyed “Clear the Stage,” because of the mix of music — I’m not a fan of a CD’s songs all sound­ing the same — and the thought-pro­vok­ing lyrics. Add in the whim­si­cal with “Daddy’s Baby Girl,” and the lis­ten­er won’t get bored with the well-writ­ten and pro­duced 10-song CD.

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