Bruce Carroll was born on December 5, 1953 and born again in 1979. Throughout his life his musical influences have included: Peter, Paul, and Mary, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and James Taylor. His debut album SOMETHING GOOD IS BOUND TO HAPPEN came out in 1987. For fifteen years he was a worship leader at Hope Presbyterian Church in Cordova, TN. He has won 7 Dove Awards and 2 Grammys. He and his wife Nikki teach marriage seminars. Back in 2005 Bruce released his latest studio album BIG WORLD (On The Grove).
The pleasant title track ‘Big World’ is up first. It is an adult contemporary song with the influence of country music. It is one of three songs penned by the duo of Bruce and Billy Sprague. Inspired by John Eldredge’s book ‘Wild at Heart’, it features Jerry McPherson on electric guitar, and is a song of spiritual determination: “Now I’m fiercely devoted, can’t lock me in/My heart is free and dangerous again/It’s a big world/Battles to be won, adventures yet to come/It’s a big world/Beauty to defend, faithful to the end/This is what life is/I was meant for this big world/Give me strength to face the dragons/Bigger dreams to imagine/Help me keep a heart of passion/God I pray”. ‘Everything I Need’ is one of two songs Bruce co-wrote with Kerry Connor. It is a ballad of contentment regarding not having all the answers: “I won’t get it figured out/I will wrestle with my doubt/But I know that You are everything I need/You have led me to this ledge/You are with me on the edge/Of the way things are right now and what will be/Life’s a mystery/But You’re everything I need”.
David Shotsberger is responsible for string arrangements on ‘Ship out of Water’. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one will be able to relate to these lyrics: “Memory is a country where I can go to see your face/But where can I go when I miss your embrace?/Like a ship out of water/You left me waiting here/Longing just to be with you/The time will come when we cast off from the shore of all our fears/And sail into the wild blue wonder of Heaven and you’ll be there”. ‘I Don’t Care What They Say’ is a catchy country tune that reminds us not to live for the approval of others: “I don’t care what they say/I don’t care what they say/When it’s all said and done/Everything but You fades away”
‘The Story’ is a pretty gem that runs over six minutes long. It is a family affair with Taylor Carroll on drums, Bruce playing bells and acoustic guitar, and Nikki and Austin Carroll on backing vocals. This song seems to reflect on Christ: “Every story on every face/He could so easily read/No one could hide from His wise, loving gaze/What is He reading in me?/He was a boy and much more than a man/He died on a dangerous road/Bleeding the hope of the world from His hands/So we could find our way home (2X)”. ‘Jealousy’ is a country song exposing a very dangerous vice: “It takes a toll on my gratitude/Moves me farther away from You/How many times do I have to learn/I’ve got more than I deserve?/Jealousy is killing me/It’s living rent free in my soul/It’s plain to see that I won’t be free/Till You deliver me from jealousy”.
Of the song ‘Letters I Left Behind’ Bruce writes: “A true story about a man in my church whose father left him letters to live by, because he knew he was dying of cancer and would not be around to see his son grow up”. Tom Hemby plays acoustic guitars. Here are some of the lyrics: “The day I turned thirteen and the day I learned to drive/He found a way to share those special times in life/Though I never heard his voice, I know him well/And I’m finding out that I am so much wiser for/The truth his letters held”. Kyle Matthews wrote ‘When We Fail Love’. Donna Hauth plays piano on it and Al Perkins plays steel guitar. It is a song of both regret and hope: “Pick up the pieces, let’s see what’s been broken/What’s become of us/How do we manage to do so much damage/To the ones we love when we care so much?/When we fail love it’s hard to take/The expectations are so great/We raise our hopes, we dream our dreams/And then we do some foolish things/But love that comes easy will easily give up/When we fail love we’ve got to trust the love/That won’t fail us”.
‘Halfway House’ offers a unique description of going to church: “Down at the halfway house/Somewhere between/Total rehab and working things out/The halfway house where I can come clean/Renew my faith and deal with my doubt/Cause the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak/That’s why most Sunday’s you’ll find me/Laughing and crying and hanging my laundry out at the halfway house”. Jason Webb plays piano on the last song ‘Shelter Me’. It is a prayer: “Shelter me, shelter me/Let the thought of Your compassion be my strength/Prince of peace, shelter me/From the tempest of my unbelief/Mighty God who calmed the sea/Come and shelter me”.
BIG WORLD is a collection of ten poignant and thoughtful songs about life. It is very much a relational album. It is not preachy, yet talks openly about faith, and yes, doubt. Bruce writes: “Thanks be to God for His hidden secrets, mysteries, and treasures of the unknown. Show me the way of grace”. Musically, the album combines country with adult contemporary sounds, and touches of the inspirational genre are also present. Fans of Wayne Watson, James Taylor, Ray Boltz, and Michael Card should buy BIG WORLD. I’m rating it 88%. For more info visit: www.brucecarroll.com.