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Home > Music > Reviews

Big Blue SkyBig Blue Sky
Bebo Norman (Watershed/Essential)
by Russell Breimeier

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Sounds like … earthy, acoustic-based pop with a little bit of roots rock in the mix this time, reminiscent of such artists as Marc Cohn, David Wilcox, and Fernando Ortega.

At a Glance … though the songs are a little less profound this time, they're still very well written and even a little fun at times, proving Bebo Norman to be one of Christian music's most valuable songwriters.

Bebo Norman is clearly one of Christian music's brightest rising stars. After a successful introduction via regular touring with Caedmon's Call (you might call Bebo their artistic cousin), Bebo's first album, Ten Thousand Days, was met with much critical acclaim and garnered him a large following here in the States as well as in Europe (he's one of the best-selling new American artists to hit the UK in recent years). If there were a fault with Bebo's previous album (and I stress the word "if"), it might be that the overall sound was a little too mellow and folksy for the tastes of some. Folk can be a limiting genre if the artist strictly adheres to just acoustic guitar, and with a few exceptions, Ten Thousand Days was filled with such quiet and contemplative songs.

That's not the case with Big Blue Sky, a far less brooding (and dare I say fun) album that treads the line between acoustic folk and roots rock/pop. The album's first single "I Am" is all-around terrific—upbeat, positive, and encouraging. It sounds more like his hero Marc Cohn ("Walking in Memphis") than anything else he's ever done. And yes, you are indeed hearing some electric guitars in that song, as well as on "Cover Me," which features soft synthesizers and a heavier guitar-driven pop/rock chorus for Bebo in a song about how God oversees everything from the heavens to the corners of our hearts. Likewise, "You Surround Me" is a simple love song that also features a more electric-guitar-driven Bebo than we're used to, not to mention a vibrophone riff that gives the song some unique color.

Another highlight is the mid-tempo roots-rock feel of "Tip of My Heart," which explores that desire we all have for something deeper and more meaningful in our life. A personal favorite for me was "Break Me Through," a prayer for God to cut through the loneliness we experience and grant us peace in its place. Of course, if you find yourself missing the softer acoustic side of Bebo, fear not—there's "Perhaps She'll Wait for Me" (singles everywhere are sure to embrace this one) and "Where You Are" (a beautiful song written for Bebo's mother). I think it serves as a real testament to Bebo's songwriting skills that an album such as Big Blue Sky can come across as fun and hopeful despite so many songs dealing with loneliness and wanting. In part, you can credit that to Bebo and producer Ed Cash's desire to push their musical horizons a little further this time—and you can't ignore his gift for effectively sharing through song the hope we have because of Jesus Christ.

For the record, I believe there's something critical to say about every album because it's impossible to please everyone. Big Blue Sky may be a "louder" album than Ten Thousand Days was, but it will still be too mellow an album for some people, and possibly not mellow enough for purists looking for just Bebo and his acoustic guitar. The songs are all excellent, though some will say they're generally not as intellectually profound as past songs such as "The Hammer Holds." Also, I've already talked to some who have a problem with Bebo including a love song, "You Surround Me," on the same album as "Perhaps She'll Wait for Me," which is about coping with loneliness as a single. These are all valid observations, I suppose, but it's also nitpicking for what many will agree to be an excellent follow-up from Bebo Norman, showing that the quality of his first album was no accident. Because he's demonstrated that he can consistently write solid pop songs and that he's also capable of musical growth, Bebo's future as a songwriter is bound to be filled with blue skies.

Big Blue SkyBig Blue Sky
Bebo Norman (Watershed/Essential)
Buy it now at Musicforce.com!

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