More music to keep you occupied during quarantine is here. Nashville songwriter and worship performer Chris Renzema released his newest album on April 24, 2020, titled “Let The Ground Rest.” According to an article from The Christian Beat, the album possesses music “about hope and echoing the universality of both pain and praise.” Made up of ten original songs, Renzema’s second full length album centers around “the idea that growth comes from periods of rest, of barrenness,” said Renzema in the article cited above. “It’s a process to exist, to learn and understand God’s love. While His love is not seasonal, we go through seasons as we understand and experience it.”
Renzema’s first full length album “I’ll Be The Branches” dropped in 2018, featuring one of his most popular songs “How to Be Yours” that has received over eight million saves on Spotify. He collaborated with musical artist Moriah Hazeltine in an album titled “Age to Age” in 2014; towards the beginning of his up-and-coming career. And now, despite “having no idea” that his newest album would be released during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, Renzema expressed how he views some of the songs as “prayer[s] for tired hearts in this crazy time,” as expressed in The Christian Beat article.
Renzema’s sound is characterized by his inspiration from artists like Wilco, Beck and John Mark McMillan, as he shared on his church’s website, Ethos Church, where he is the marathon worship leader.
Let’s get to talking about Renzema’s new music. We’ll walk through four of the featured tracks: their musicality, various interpretations and uniqueness.
The first of the ten songs, “Springtime,” was actually released as a single in February on Spotify and other listening platforms. Beginning with quiet piano before introducing drums and electronic strings, the song is a metaphor rooted within the concept of the spring season. Its main chorus lyrics say “We will sing a new song,” mirroring how growth comes in the months after winter, when things are “reaching towards the light.” Renzema expresses how he views the Lord’s love “like springtime,” asking him to come and “tend the soil of my soul” so that he can “grow.”
When I first heard this song back in February, I was still in winter in more ways than one. This song reminded me that life is lived through seasons, that winter and its troubles do not last forever, but God’s love can be viewed as a kind of eternal springtime that calls us to grow in the middle of our present circumstances. I think that it serves well as the very first song on the album; its concepts tie into the album’s overall theme in relation to growth as well as rest. “Spring is not spring without winter, and that process is a good thing,” Renzema said in The Christian Beat article.
2. “Maybe This Is The End”
A melody that mixes the electronic synths of an 80s hit and the twangy guitar of a folk ballad, this song begins with a swirling instrumental intro that sounds like the perfect song to blast with the windows down in the car. Then Renzema’s voice sounds and the words he sings reveal that this song fits into more than just road trip playlists. This song can be interpreted in a variety of ways. It features repeated phrases of “Sure, maybe this is the end” that cause listeners to think about what may be ending for not only Renzema but themselves. The pre-chorus sings “I never saw it coming, but here we are and here we go,” adding to the sense of wonder of what Renzema is singing about exactly. We get an allusion to scripture with the phrase “Dust to dust, ashes to ashes,” but this ominous reference to destruction is never fully delved into.
This song seems to me to be purposefully vague- like an invitation for the listener to fill in the blanks. Perhaps Renzema is singing about something in his life that saw him somewhere he wasn’t expecting to end up, as he sings “the end is just another door.” There is an endless amount of interpretations to be made, which is the main part of what made this song so powerful for me apart from its toe-tapping beat and variety of instruments.
A strumming guitar paired with Renzema’s voice begins with what I believe to be the most raw and honest song on the album. His description of saying “a thousand times” that “never again starts now” relates to humanity’s struggles with the pitfalls of sin; Renzema expresses it in a straightforward way. The song is a conversation with God as well as an invitation. Listeners hear the lyrics and get a glimpse of Renzema’s conversation with God, but they can also allow themselves to sing the song and participate in their own communion, making the words their own. The chorus leads into the concept of life being simpler when we were younger, when we weren’t caught in “the inbetween.” The bridge allows us to ruminate on the words Renzema has heard God speak to him: “Child, stop listening to yourself so much. I have made you more than worthy of My love.” These lines truly develop the vulnerability that Renzema introduces throughout the lines in the intro. The strumming guitar picks up intensity and is joined by electronic chords and drums to go with the divine words Renzema has shared. I felt a profound sense of awe at the display of God’s mercy that this song portrays. The song’s outro switches so that while Renzema is the one singing, the words are God’s words, telling us that He knows that “your heart is tired” and “broken,” but that “the best is still yet to come.”
This song spoke to me more than all of the others, especially through the lyric “Child, stop listening to yourself so much.” Speaking as someone who painstakingly over analyzes and expends too much energy on trying to control what cannot be controlled, this song is like a wake-up call to the fact that there is a being in control over me. Not just over me, but for me. This song is powerful.
4. “Let The Ground Rest”
This song speaks directly into the world’s present quarantine experience. To use language mirroring that of the album, the world’s present spring season of rest as well as barrenness. This song, the title song, deals with a time of rest, despite the desire to be active and moving in spiritual as well as physical ways. The beginning of the song, featuring a single guitar, speaks of waiting for one’s time to come, to have “your fifteen minutes in the sun.” But Renzema asks “don’t you find it strange that God, He made four seasons and only one’s spring?” I think that this question is meant to showcase how even though the beauty of spring is lavish and full of healthy growth, there have to be times of decay and simple, dormant stillness to prepare for the growth that comes after winter. Renzema calls his listeners to “just let the ground rest, ‘cause if it’s not right now it’s for the best.” This song celebrates the reality of life not always being what we would define as good, but rather that most of the time it deviates away from the various plans that we have made and put our hope in. And maybe that is okay. It brings a song like “Springtime” into sharper clarity and value. Complete with more folk guitar paired with piano and drums, a steady rhythm pulses beneath Renzema’s higher falsetto notes as he sings directly to his listeners: “These flowers only grow once they’ve tasted rain… You’re gonna grow, I know this.” It is a song of confidence that allows its listeners to remember that, among their other worries and tribulations, the quarantine and death from COVID-19 will not last forever. Despite the fear and uneasiness they harbor, this time can be embraced as a time of rest to prepare for future seasons.
Renzema’s “Let The Ground Rest” is available to stream on platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube Music. It is just a listen away for people looking for music that doesn’t try to gloss over the hard parts of having faith in God. On the contrary — it is music that celebrates the unusualness of this particular spring season, offering exponential hope and growth to last to the quarantine’s other side.
Written By: Meghan Coley