True North

Twila Paris

Sparrow Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret


Imagine if you will, the promotional planning meeting at Sparrow Records for Twila Paris' gorgeous new album, True North -- apologies to the people at Sparrow:

"Well, what do we have to work with?" says the Marketing Director.

"Well, Charlie (Peacock) produced it and it's rumored to be his last turn on the boards before retiring to become a minister," says the Public Relations Coordinator.

"It has some of Twila's best song writing in years," adds the Artist Representative. "Plus, she sounds positively vibrant. Her voice has never been clearer or filled with more authority."

"The message is vital for the church - and the world - today," says the Minister-In-Residence.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah - but we can't hype any of that. We need something else. We need to create buzz. When was her last album?" the MD asks.

"Well, just last year she put out Perennial: Songs For The Seasons Of Life, which was arguably the finest worship disc of the year," suggests the AR gal. "Before that was Where I Stand in 1996, which couldn't match the phenomenal success of Beyond A Dream but was still lovely."

"So . . . ," the MD says with a gleam in his eye, "She hasn't had a real album in almost three years, not counting that P&W stuff - no one really buys that. That's it! That's our hook! 'First Adult Contemporary recording in three years!' We've got to create demand for this product people."

"But . . . but . . . it's Twila . . . " stammers the AR rep.

To the best of my knowledge, this conversation never took place. But, even if it did, what does that have to do with a review of True North? More than ever these days, Christian recording companies are hyping nonexistent, marketing-created, "angles" for their releases - even those of their top tier artists like Paris, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Geoff Moore.

In my opinion, these false campaigns belittle and besmirch the reputations of the artists involved -- and irritate the fans. As our fictional AR person suggested "it's Twila." Does more really need to be said?

Yes, more needs to be said because the public is fickle and I understand that. But, let's concentrate on the artists and their products - especially when you have a product of this quality.

On True North, Paris takes her ministry up a notch and Peacock takes her production quality to the next level. This is an album that, if partnered with Chuck Colson's phenomenal new book "How Now Shall We Live?" (which also deals with the idea of how our worldview shapes our thinking), could have a real impact on the world at large - and definitely the Christian portion of the community.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Life is a spiritual journey. For Christians, God's Word (The Bible) is the moral compass - their sense of direction. Even though the magnetic pull of the "world" competes against the 'true north' of God, it is the Christians' responsibility, Paris' suggests, to keep their lives directed by and toward Christ.

In the title tune, Paris addresses both Christians and non-Christians calling, pleading, for them to return their attentions to the "true north" - God - that guides our paths:

"Wonders of nature speak to us all of Your plan/Why would we run from Your hand?/Laws of the earth, just like laws of the heart/Only begin where You are/How did we ever wander so far and where do we go from here?"

Paris said she wrote the song to point to the reality of universal truth. "If I were lost in the woods and arbitrarily decided where 'true north' was, I'd just get more lost. Just as the planet has only one 'true north,' the person and the message of Jesus Christ is our one supernatural 'true north,'" she said.

Another highlight is the driving "Run To You." Powered by an athletic backbeat and some truly assertive guitar and keyboards, this is one catchy pop tune. But, it's much more than that as well. It's a mature realization that the farther along a Christian gets in the life they've chosen, the more need we find we have of Christ.

"Faster now than ever, I run to You/Now I know You better, I run to You/I am a little older now, You know it's true/Maybe a little wise too, I run to You."

The guitar with attitude in this song, and most of the others, is provided by none other than Kenny Greenberg, an amazing guitarist in his own right but also the husband of CCMs Rock Queen Ashley Cleveland. Unfortunately, I looked in vain for Cleveland's name in the credits. Still, some mighty big names came along to play on this project, including guitar virtuoso Scott Dente from Out Of The Grey and Peacock.

In addition, Dan Haseltine from the alt-rock group Jars of Clay duets on the set closing "When You Speak To Me." But, it's Paris' show from beginning to end -- and rightly so.

This disc runs almost seamlessly from one song to the next, with each successive work building on or illuminating the previous one. However, there is one song that aurally soars above the others. It fits thematically into the set as well, but "Daughter Of Grace" is a great listen just for listening's sake.

It's textured and layered, and every time I hear it, new nuances and sounds can break out of the mix. Laid on a bed of percussion supplied by Eric Darken, the acoustic guitars, violins, cellos, and Hammond B3, playfully dance around the song until one can picture the women sung about in the song offering a joyful dance of praise to God for the grace He has brought into their lives.

"Carried in the arms of love and mercy/Breathing in a second wind/Shining with the light of each new morning/Looking into hope again/Unable to take another step/Finally ready to begin/Born for a second time in a brand new place/Daughter of grace."

True North closes with a special, intimate, moment. In "When You Speak To Me," which Paris wrote to attempt to describe the experience of knowing that you have been visited by the Spirit of God, she addresses the totality of God.

"When You speak to me/When I take the time to listen/There is more than what I think I feel."

Those words adequately sum up the experience of listening to True North - if you take the time to listen you will hear so much more than what is there. You'll hear a whisper of the voice of God.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1999 Michael Ehret and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sparrow Records, and is used for informational purposes only.