Jessa Anderson lives in Nashville, TN with her husband Jordan and their two kids Lorelei and Jagger. Jessa loves coffee and watching Gilmore Girls and hates olives. Her website says: “As for music, and why it matters, I view it as a thread that runs far and wide, bringing people to God and to one another. I have a hard time labeling music in and of itself as ‘Christian’, but I am proud to be a Christ-follower making music encompassing both the human and the holy”. WHOLE (2014, Crash Records) is her third full length album.
A pleasant pop/dance number called ‘Idols’ opens the album. It finds Jessa conversing openly with her Creator: “And as it turns out, this fickle heart in my chest/Sometimes it beats for everything but what is best/And when I turn down the voice I hear in my head/I give You room to speak and offer life instead/So take all of these idols, all of these idols and lay them to rest/So take all of these idols, all of my idols”. ‘Stay’ opens with lyrics that many a married couple will be able to relate to: “Another yelling match here in the living room/A personal attack is thrown from me to you/And then you give it back/And slam the door and drive away/And all you’re thinking is ‘Don’t know how much more I can take’/Cause when we started out, wide-eyed and unafraid/Thought we would never doubt the promises we made/But disillusioned now ‘cause nothing seems to be the same/And we are wondering just how much more that we can take”.
‘Giving Your Heart Away’ is a pretty ballad that again deals with male-female relationship issues: “Her hands would shake when she said goodbye/She never meant to hurt a heart that was so kind/Searching for words to apologize/With her mistakes burning bright in his eyes/Unwelcome tears that he’d try to fight spilling out/Slowly running him dry.../Said it was love, but I didn’t believe him/Feel like I’m locked inside without a key, and/If I could only collect all the pieces/That I have given up/Maybe it’d be enough”. ‘Everything’ is an Adult Contemporary song that features beautiful, poetic words: “This is love, not that I could love but that I’m loved by One/Who loves at any cost, even to death/You’ve gone and stand victorious/And when I think about all You’ve done/Jesus I am overcome/You know it hits me like a tidal wave/And I buckle down beneath the weight of/All You are, no less than Everything/I am helpless but to speak Your name/The sweetest sound I’ll ever make/With all my heart/I’m giving everything”.
‘Can’t Be Saved’ sounds a pessimistic note: “It’s lonely on the sea but every once in a while comes someone/Who tries and tries to put the anchor down/But soon they will find that every time there’s a reason I’m still drifting/And I’ll be right here until I drown.../They say if you look close enough at the bottom/You might see just a little piece of what you thought was love”. ‘Caught me by Surprise’ is a gentle, happy song: “Well I don’t know how we got together but I’m glad we did/You said hello and before I could stop it I was falling in/One look in your eyes, I was mesmerized right there and then/And suddenly realized just how much I’d been missing/Little did I know that I was only seeing black and white/Living shades of gray/Still I thought that I was doing fine/But now the colors seem so bright/You caught me by surprise”.
‘Never the Same’ would fit nicely on daytime Christian radio. This song makes it clear that Jessa wants to share her faith and the hope she’s found with others: “I want to make You known with every breath in my lungs/Until there’s nothing more, until the work is done.../Now all I want to do is tell everybody how/Your love has overcome the deepest of my needs and I/Could never quite express the way that You’ve changed me now/But I will do my best/Yes, I will do my best”. ‘Breakdown’ warns us that fighting in relationships can be like being on a battlefield: “When every line is crossed and every word is spoken/When every drop of blood has been spilled out and every hope is gone/With every weapon drawn and every wound inflicted/When you are the only one left standing/Can you really say you’ve won?.../So every bullet fired and every forced explosion, yeah, yeah/Is taking from everyone in it’s path not just the target chosen”.
‘Story of Grace’ is a well-crafted song that places total confidence in God: “Yet I know You hear even what I can’t say/Though my mouth is silent my heart cries for strength/So let the words come one by one/Goodness and healing from my tongue/That I’d find Your glory even in my pain/Let my life tell the story of grace”. The title track, ‘Whole’, is up last. It reflects on what Christ accomplished at Calvary: “If He really did come to right the fall, pay once for all of us, take all the burden and the sin/If the curtain was rent, the sky was black, and the spear went in to pour down the last of a covenant/If death was beginning instead of end, then who I am now was determined then.../And when He said ‘It is finished’/It was finished then/He gave us what we don’t deserve and paved the way to righteousness”.
On the whole, pun intended, WHOLE has two strengths that stand out to me. First off, the album successfully deals both with horizontal relationships (human to human), and vertical relationship (between us and God). Secondly, Jessa has a voice that is very smooth, warm, and inviting to listen to. The main downfall of the album, in my opinion, is that there are so many slow, quiet songs that they almost begin to sound alike. I hope on her next album Jessa includes several peppier, upbeat songs musically. I’m rating WHOLE 83% and recommending it to fans of Faith Grace, Taylor Swift, and Sarah McLachlan. For more info visit: www.jessaanderson.com.