Laura Mixon Story was born on September 5, 1978 in Augusta, Georgia. From 1997 to 2000 the band she was in, Silers Bald, put out four independent records. In 2002 she released her first solo independent album, INDESCRIBABLE. A couple years later Chris Tomlin had a #2 hit with its title track. Story released her fourth album, BLESSINGS, in 2011 (INO). It hit #1 on the Top Christian Albums and the Folk Albums chart. It won the Dove for ‘Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year’. The title track also won a couple of Dove’s. Fast forward to 2017 and Story has a new studio album out, OPEN HANDS (Fair Trade). She states: “What the Lord asks us is to surrender. It’s about learning to live with open hands, learning to live life in this constant state of saying, ‘Lord, my life is Yours. My time is Yours. My resources are Yours. All of this is Yours. Do what You will”. She adds: “My greatest goal is always for my story to encourage listeners to believe that they, too, can live out their faith in the midst of hard circumstances”.
A modern worship song, ‘Death Was Arrested’, starts things off. It’s a song of testimony that uses six background vocalists: “Released from my chains, I’m a prisoner no more/My shame was a ransom He faithfully bore/He cancelled my debt/And He called me His friend/When death was arrested and my life began/Oh, Your grace so free washes over me/You have made me new/Now life begins with You”. Laura Story and Seth Mosley wrote the title track, ‘Open Hands’, which is already a chart-topper. Luke Brown sings backing vocals, while Third Day’s Mac Powell provides duet vocals. It’s a worship song about letting go: “Take it all, every hope, every dream, every plan/Take it all, every weight/All the shame and brokenness/Jesus, I surrender all/Every victory and loss/Take it all, take it all/’Til all I have is open hands”. ‘You Came Running’ is an adult contemporary song that praises God: “Heartbreak on this winding road/And the pieces I had gathered/Couldn’t heal up on their own/But the God of all comfort and the Prince of all Peace/Came running/You came running/You saw what was shattered/The depth of my need/And came running/You came running to me”.
‘Give You Faith’ is a pretty co-write with Hank Bentley. It’s lovingly addressed to Laura’s children: “I wanna give you faith/I wanna leave you hope/That you would know a love that never lets you go/More than wisdom or wealth/More than happiness and health/May you say I gave you faith.../The very God who formed you/Gives grace enough for us/And though I won’t be perfect/I’ll teach you to trust”. ‘For the Love of My King’ includes background vocals by Tina LaRue and Jeremy Redmon. It’s a well done mash-up of ‘My Jesus, I Love Thee’ and new lyrics including these: “As long as I have breath, until the end of days/I will sing for the love of my King/Whether in life or death/My heart will ever praise/I will sing for the love of my King”.
Laura writes: “I’m pretty sure that the theology that I learned as a kid was from old hymns. It’s amazing, even now as an adult, how those hymns come back and really provide that sturdy foundation for life”. ‘Awake My Soul (A 1000 Tongues)’ presents these words in a modern worship style: “O’ for a thousand tongues to sing/My great Redeemer’s praise/The glories of my God and King/The triumphs of His grace/A thousand songs are not enough/To say how great You are/The glories of Your majesty/The triumphs of Your love/Awake my soul to sing the glories of my God and King/Arise and praise the One/Worthy of the songs of a thousand tongues”. Laura, Hank Bentley, and Mia Fieldes wrote ‘Whisper’. Gabe Scott plays the hammer dulcimer, Cara Fox the cello, and lap steel and bouzouki are also used on this beautiful ballad about patience: “I will wait for You (2X)/And my heart will be the listener/I will wait for You (2X)/And I will find You in the whisper/I believe that You speak in the quietness/Even in the chaos I will rest”.
‘Every Word You Breathe’ declares the power of God’s Word: “It’s water for the thirsty, power for the weak/Shelter for the weary/Help for those in need/It’s revival for the broken/It answers those who seek/With every word You’ve spoken/You’re bringing life to me/You are bringing life to me”. ‘Majesty’ is one of two cuts on the album solely written by Laura. It’s a modern worship ballad: “Your Majesty, Your Grace Divine/The fullness my soul thirsts to find/May all I am be lost in the depths of who You are/That I may know life true/O Majesty”.
Next up is ‘Extraordinary’, a contemporary song beginning with these words of gratitude: “No eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard/The fullness of Your love/And kindness undeserved/This mystery of grace/I cannot comprehend/That You would call me child, that You would call me friend/You are extraordinary/In the way You love/In the way You love me/You find me when I’m weary and You lift me up”. Laura’s bio says she wrote the closing song ‘Grace Abounds’ “after weeks of turning on the television only to continue to watch stories of terror attacks, extreme injustice, and racial tension make headlines day after day”. Laura plays piano and Chris Bevins and Craig Swift are responsible for the string arrangement on this easy listening number. I like these words: “When life has left me disillusioned/When hostility and hatred seem to win/Each headline that I read brings me to my knees again/When it feels like hope cannot be found/Grace abounds”.
If Chris Tomlin were female, he would be Laura Story. The two artists are very similar in their approach to crafting modern worship songs for the church. At least that’s what I conclude after listening to OPEN HANDS. Laura has a voice that is easy to listen to and the instrumentation is skillful here. These songs express gratitude to God for redeeming us via the cross and the resurrection. God is praised for His grace, love, comfort, healing, and majesty! We are called to willingly surrender our lives to Him. We are also called to wait on and listen for God. There are two updates on traditional songs of the church, presented with additional and new lyrics, which is a Chris Tomlin mega-trait. ‘Give You Faith’ is the best song appropriate for infant baptisms or baby dedications that I’ve heard in a while. I’m rating OPEN HANDS a perfect 100% for its strong lyrics and how the songs flow together so effortlessly. For more info visit: www.laurastorymusic.com and www.fairtradeservices.com.