Formed in Oregon, Kutless released their self-titled debut album in 2002. In 2005 they released their first worship album, STRONG TOWER. It reached #4 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart. In 2009 they released their second worship album, IT IS WELL (BEC Recordings). It debuted at #2 on Billboard’s Hot Christian Albums chart and at #42 on the Billboard Top 200. It was nominated for a Dove Award for ‘Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year’. Here, I am reviewing the standard edition of the album. At the time Kutless was: Jon Micah Sumrall (vocals), James Mead (guitar), Nick De Partee (guitar), Dave Luetkenhoelter (bass), and Jeff Gilbert (drums). In the liner notes the band shares: “During the recording process we met as a band every morning and dug into the Word and prayed. God was there. We worked with purpose-everybody deferring to each other’s strengths. There was freedom, laughter and unity”.
Horatio Gates Spafford wrote the classic title track, ‘It is Well’. This rock version here begins with church bells and footsteps and features the Westside Christian High School Choir. It’s a strong personal testimony: “My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!/My sin, not in part but the whole/Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more/Praise the Lord/Praise the Lord, O my soul!/It is well, with my soul/It is well with my soul”. ‘Amazed’ is one of several originals on the album and one of three penned by the trio of Nick De Partee, Phil Wickham, and Pete Kipley. It’s an adult contemporary song of wonder: “How amazed I am/Your glory fills the sky/A great and holy light/Shining like a million stars/I’m amazed by Who You are.../The universe is at Your feet and angels bow when You speak/So high above our greatest song but still You call and we will come”.
A rocked up version of Kathryn Scott’s ‘Hungry’ follows. It declares spiritual need: “Hungry I come to You/For I know You satisfy/I am empty but I know/Your love does not run dry/So I wait for You (2X)/I’m falling on my knees/Offering all of me/Jesus, You’re all this heart is living for”. Jon Micah Sumrall and Dave Lubben wrote ‘Taken By Love’, a ballad of gratitude: “You’ve taken me by love/You’ve taken me by grace/You’ve taken me away/I can’t resist because You’ve taken my heart/All creation will bow to the risen King”.
Scott Davis and Scott Krippayne wrote the album’s successful lead single, ‘What Faith Can Do’, while Luke Brown is a backing vocalist on it. It’s a terrific adult contemporary ballad of inspiration: “Don’t you give up now/The sun will soon be shining/You gotta face the clouds to find the silver lining/I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains/Hope that doesn’t ever end/Even when the sky is falling/I’ve seen miracles just happen/Silent prayers get answered/Broken hearts become brand new/That’s what faith can do”. ‘Remember Me’ is a great rock song from the perspective of one of the criminals Christ was crucified with: “Take what I have left my Saviour/Take me with You from this cross/When I leave this life completely/Remember me.../Left heaven to save/Liars and thieves/Sinners like me/Your blood sets us free”.
Mark Byrd and Steve Hindalong wrote ‘God of Wonders’. It was the first song on the multi-artist praise and worship album CITY ON A HILL (2000). Kutless does a decent, but not groundbreaking, cover of it here. Some of the now familiar congregational words are: “God of wonders beyond our galaxy/You are holy, holy/The universe declares Your majesty/You are holy, holy/Lord of heaven and earth (2X).../You’re wonderful, so wonderful Lord/So wonderful Lord”. On ‘Everything I Need’ the band pours out their hearts: “You are strength in my weakness and You are the refuge I seek/You are everything in my time of need/You are everything/You are everything I need/I need You/You are everything I need/I love everything about You”.
Charlie Hall’s ‘Give us Clean Hands’ is next. This modern worship song is one of prayer: “Give us clean hands/Give us pure hearts/Let us not lift our souls to another/And God let us be a generation that seeks/Seeks Your face, oh God of Jacob”. Kutless really brings the song to life! Born again Christians will surely relate to the rock song ‘You Save Me’ and these words from it: “I’ll never be the same/Your love is changing everything/You pulled me from the grave/Wrapped me in Your arms/Jesus, You have won my heart/You save me/You set me free/Forever, Savior You will rescue me”.
‘Redeemer’ is a medley of ‘Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful’ and ‘There is a Redeemer’ both penned by Melody Green and popularized by her late husband and Christian music legend Keith Green. I think I would rather Kutless had just done a full cover of ‘There is a Redeemer’. Last up is ‘I’m Still Yours’, a soft song worthy of reflection: “If I lost it all would my hands stay lifted to the God who gives and takes away?/If You take it all/This life You’ve given/Still my heart will sing to You/Even if You take it all away/You’ll never let me go/Take it all away/But I still know that I’m Yours”.
IT IS WELL is a well executed modern praise and worship record. There are songs of testimony that speak of the salvation and eternal life God has provided us, songs that point to God as our strength and refuge, and songs that tell of the works God can do when we have faith. Other songs speak of spiritual surrender and desiring all God wants for us, including purity. Still other songs marvel at God’s creation, His glory, majesty, joy, peace, and love and grace that He gives to us. This is, stylistically, a laid back rock album firstly, and secondly an adult contemporary album. Fans of Chris Tomlin, Third Day, and Petra should buy this one, which I’m rating 93%. For more info visit: www.kutless.com.