Crystal Lynn Lewis was born on September 11, 1969 in Corona, California to a pastor and his wife. She released her debut solo album BEYOND THE CHARADE in 1987. She is married to record executive Brian Ray. They have two kids-Solomon Ray and Izzi Ray. Crystal has sung with the likes of Yolanda Adams, Donna Summer, and Steven Curtis Chapman. Some of her best known songs are: ‘I Now Live’, ‘Beauty for Ashes’, ‘People Get Ready...Jesus is Coming’, ‘God’s Been Good to Me’, and ‘Lord, I Believe in You’. She has won multiple Dove Awards and has been a Grammy nominee. Crystal’s latest album is simply called CRYSTAL LEWIS (Metro 1 Music, 2015).
Starting things off is ‘Be Alright’, a cheerful R&B number featuring Anthony Evans, who was a contestant on Season 2 of ‘The Voice’. The song points to God’s faithfulness: “Contemplating seasons of my life/I marvel as I realize every step had purpose/Every lesson learned was for my good/And I’m convinced that I stood up every single time/Underneath the weight of all the pressure because it was in His strength, not mine/Oh, this is my testimony, the story of my life/His yoke is easy and His burden’s light/It’s gonna be alright, be alright”. ‘Faithful’ was the first song Crystal completed for this album. It has a groovy disco feel to it and includes strong, effective backing vocals. Of this radio single, Crystal says: “The song was prophetic, I think, because what I needed to hear was...this isn’t about what YOU can accomplish, it’s about what the God of the Universe has done, can do, will do”. Here are some of the lyrics: “Your Name is faithful and true, no reason not to trust You/Your promise permanent, forever/Kinda like a tattoo/Your peace always surpassing, beyond my understanding/I barely dare to wrap my mind around Your precious blessings/New mercies every morning/Redeeming and restoring/My heart is at home/Even in the middle of the storm”.
Another radio single follows. ‘Love Each Other’ is a funkified Christian rock song with great electric guitar work. Penned by Crystal, Jonathan Korszyk, and Michael Wofford, it offers this great biblical advice to us all: “Try showing some real respect/Caring more about what you’re givin’ than what you get/Learning to love others more than you do/Loving your neighbors just as much as you’re loving you.../What if we put self aside?/What if WE was more important than I?/Check your motive/Leave your pride at the door/There isn’t room for it anymore/Jesus said to love each other”. ‘Let Go’ encourages us not to get stuck in a ‘victim mentality’ with these words: “The hurts that we harbor/The bruises and wounds that we wear/They increase in power to paralyze, weaken, and snare/The longer we cling to, agree with, and feed them/The greater our fear/It’s in letting go we gain ground/Moving forward our freedom appears/Let it, let it, let it go”. ‘In Your Name (For Your Glory)’ is a beautiful R&B ballad featuring Christon Gray. It documents a struggle against pride: “I’ve lived so many days trying to get my way, on my own crusade/I’ve grown fond of my name/Waving banners in my honor at my own parade/But that was yesterday/A lot has changed, I’m not the same/And I stand here unashamed/Just to say/’It’s only in Your Name/In Your Name we boldly run, we boldly run/By Your strength the battle’s won, the battle’s won/For Your glory, Your kingdom come, Your kingdom come’/We proclaim ‘Your will be done’”.
‘Move On’ is one of two songs solely written by Crystal’s daughter Izzi Ray, who is a solo artist herself. Izzi also sings background vocals on this cry for God to direct one’s path: “Drive me onward, urge and cause me to move/Impart motion to everything You’ve called me to/Confide in me/Show me Your plan graciously/I won’t waste another day, trying to do things my own way/I’m moving on (5X)/Please lead the way and I will, I will, I will, I will, I will, I will follow”. ‘Beginning Again’ reminds us not to stay in a place of regret: “For so long it was the same song/I sang it over and over again/The pull of the past was holding me back/Seemed that story would never end/Every time, every time/I’d try to break the tight hold, it wouldn’t let go/Till in my mind I left behind/The weight of yesterday/Now I’m finally free to say/Over and over/I’m beginning again”.
Crystal co-wrote ‘Seat at the Table’ with Chris Lizotte. It features sax, trumpet, and baritone sax arranged by Frank Lenz. This soulful, upbeat track joyfully anticipates the afterlife: “I’ve been invited to dine with the bride and the Lamb/To share the bread and new wine with/The Great I AM.../I’ve got a seat at that table/To meet the good and faithful/Saints and sinners both restored.../With open arms I’ll be welcomed/A reunion so sweet/In unison we’ll sing our song/Like thunder, loud and free.../If you get there before I do/Won’t ya save me a spot next to you?” ‘Run’ is one of four songs produced by Peace586 whose real name is Rene Vasquez. He has worked with the likes of SFC and T-Bone. This song instructs us not to compare ourselves to other believers: “We are all in different places/Running our own separate races/Gaining strength with faith and patience/Fix your eyes on Jesus/Run (4X)/See, if I can do it, so can you/If you can do it, I can too”.
Crystal, Izzi, Blaine Stark, and Jared Rich wrote ‘I Will Sing’ which has a slow R&B groove to it. Many of us can relate to these down to earth confessions: “I confess I let the wool get pulled over my eyes/I have fallen prey to make believe, malicious lies/I admit that I agree with accusations sometimes/Allowing evil to manipulate my state of mind.../Oh how easy it can be to stumble and to stray/Oh how quickly I can slip not watching what I say/I find myself back in the pit forgetting how to pray/And just like that I’m back to bondage, having lost my way”. Last up is ‘Brave’, on which James Raymond plays piano. It is a sincere, heartfelt worship song that declares God victorious over all: “Hallelujah, God has won/He fights for all of us.../Kingdoms are falling but I know You surround me/Nations in uproar/But Your voice has the last word”.
CRYSTAL LEWIS is an absolutely wonderful Christian R&B project. Listening to it, it is evident that this CCM veteran can clearly still ‘bring it’. Her vocals are distinct, captivating, and top-notch! They are at times piercing, and at times, calming. Crystal’s love for Christ and her gratitude for His work in her life shine through without question. These songs here are living and breathing. If you are a fan of great R&B music with just the right doses of pop music mixed in (Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, Natalie Grant) go out right away and buy this album! I’m rating it 93%. For more info visit: www.crystallewis.com, or connect with her on Facebook.