CD Review: True to Life by Norm Strauss
CD Review: True To Life by Norm Strauss
by Robby McAlpine
Norm Strauss’ latest release, True To Life, stands in a tradition of releases from Norm that are refreshing combinations of worship songs and day-to-day life songs intertwined together.
It is this musical example of eschewing a sacred/secular divide that has always been one of Norm’s strongest themes. As Norm writes in the liner notes:
The album is recorded with long-time musical friends, and features guest vocals from Sherri Funk (of Smith, Funk & Strauss), as well as Norm’s wife and daughter. The presence of many long-standing friends on the album results in a joyful feel of musical camaraderie and community. Stylistically, it is as diverse as one would expect of Norm, fusing folk, rock, jazz, and Celtic overtones into a pleasing aural tapestry (samples available at CD link above).
“My life is not partitioned into neat little compartments called worship or non-worship, sing-a-long-able or not sing-a-long-able. Instead it’s all kind of woven together in an awkward, yet interesting pattern... For me the two expressions are meant to be together because that’s how they are lived out.”
The opening track, How Deep Can You Feel, was instantly a favourite, as Norm explores the classic struggle between the head and the heart, in a catchy acoustic/electric style.
The strongest “worship” songs have to be Hear O Israel and Deeper, Further, Stronger. Both are lyrically accessible – or “sing-a-long-able” as Norm has said – and in a celebratory bluesy style.
Where Have All The Dreamers Gone is a rocker that you will find yourself either singing or dancing along with – or you don’t have pulse. A second listen will also reveal some very thoughtful lyrics.
Wasting Time is a wry James Taylor-ish gem on this album. Norm wrote it for his wife when they found themselves in a difficult ministry situation, and the chorus, “Chalk it up to fits and starts, Blame it on our restless hearts, I’m just glad to be wasting time with you”, is something many could relate to. Andrew Smith’s mandolin playing on this track is a treat.
The Further I Get From Me is one of my other favourites, at times reminiscent of early Sheryl Crow or Creedence Clearwater Revival. Vocally, this song is mesmerizing. A real stand-out.
The album closes with the title track True To Life, another honest and thoughtful song exploring the tension of living “between the times” – “It takes so much strength just to keep it all together, when your ragged edge keeps on showing through” – followed by the live recording of the celtic-overtoned You Still Move Me, a song reaffirming faith in Jesus through all of life’s twists and turns, and a fitting end to a great album.
Every time Norm releases a new album, I think “THIS one is my favourite”, and True To Life is no exception. Even as I listened to it again while writing this review, I was struck by the creativity in the musicianship, the thoughtful lyrics, and the range of emotions that it evoked in me. This is simply a great album.