"This Is What We Believe" by Aaron Shust - CD Review
Dove award-winning artist Aaron Shust is back with his latest project, “This Is What We Believe”, a very powerful and personal record that possibly contains Shust’s best collection of songs to date. There is an obvious depth to the lyrics and music in these songs. This project on the Centricity label, which was produced by the very prolific Ed Cash, was put together during a very tumultuous time in Aaron’s life.
If you follow Aaron on any of his social media sites, you may have seen Aaron sharing about a very painful ordeal with his then two-year old son, Nicky. He and his family had just moved from Nashville back to Pennsylvania, where Aaron grew up. Nicky was diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis, a rare and painful condition where his body was unable to take in any nutrition. He was in the hospital for months, and after his body had rejected all other known food formulas, it finally accepted the last known treatment.
Even then, he would have to be fed by a tube and on steroids for the rest of his life, since there is no known cure. The amazing end to this part of the story is that not long after that, they received an unexpected call from his doctor, saying that his latest tests had come back normal; it was as if his body had never had the condition, and from that point on, he was completely healed! The doctors couldn’t explain it, but the Shust’s were confident they had just experienced God’s miraculous healing power.
It was during this very stressful time in his life that Aaron started working on the songs in This Is What We Believe. Aaron says, “When your whole world is suddenly shaking, you need a firm place to stand. You see what it is in your life that’s stable and true and strong enough to hold you up, and you reach for that, you run to that. In a way, life becomes simpler because the distractions fall away and you find out what you really believe.”
The songs on this project are a bold declaration about who God is and who we are in Him because of His great love for us. They still have the signature sound of Aaron Shust’s straightforward, singable style, but Cash seems to have stretched him in new ways, both musically and sonically.
The title track, “This Is What We Believe”, is a strong, driving confession of who we serve - the risen Christ, who takes away the sins of the world. Almost creed-like, combining these words of truth with simple chord progressions, this song gives the church a fresh new way to declare what we believe.
The standout track to me is “My Hope Is In You”, a song not actually written by Shust himself, but one that he wanted to include because it expressed so perfectly what he was feeling during this time in his life. Written by April Geesbreght, this song starts off with a piano intro that grabs you with its driving syncopated rhythms, then keeps you engaged all through the song with the strong declaration that our hope is in Him alone, even through drought and storm. I love the rhythmic playfulness both in the melody and supporting band parts that make this song a joy to sing, and yet one that expresses just what we need to say when we’re going through struggles.
“Your Majesty”, a song that could easily be sung as a corporate worship anthem of praise, was written by Aaron over a period of several months, even though the lyrics came to him spontaneously the first time he strummed the chords. Aaron says that this song is “probably the only song I’ve ever written that just allows me to abandon myself in true worship of God every time I sing it.” It’s another powerful song of worship!
There are several other great songs on this project, including “Risen Today”, a modern version of the classic hymn “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”. No matter where you stand on the current trend of updating classic hymns, it would be hard to argue that this song isn’t an instant Easter classic on its own, with the all the familiar phrases of the verses, and the soulful expression of praise in the new chorus.
It is definitely worth your time to give this record a listen! You will find several songs you can include in your services about who God is and how He is our Shelter, Peace and Rock in times of trouble. If you’d like to hear more about this project from Aaron, and also hear him tell Nicky’s story, watch the video below.
-Review by Barry Westman
(review copy provided by Centricity Music)
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