Elizabeth Asher Bannister, who Christian music fans know as Ellie Holcomb, was born on September 12th, 1982 in Nashville, TN. Her music career beginnings were with Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors. She is married to Drew and they have 2 kids-Emmylou and Huck. After releasing two EP’s, Ellie released her debut full length studio album AS SURE AS THE SUN in 2014. The album was nominated for a Dove for ‘Best Pop/Contemporary Album’ and Ellie took home the Dove for ‘New Artist of the Year’. On January 27th, 2017 she released her follow-up album, RED SEA ROAD (Full Heart Music), produced by her famous father Brown Bannister who won his fight with cancer, and Ben Shive. Ellie shares: “This whole record has been God reminding me that He’s faithful even when you’re sick. Even when things don’t turn out like you thought they would. He will bring healing and hope. He will be who He says He is”.
Ellie, Rusty Varenkamp, and Benji Cowart wrote ‘Find You Here’, the album opener. This adult contemporary song reminds us God does not forsake us: “Here in the middle of the lonely night/Here in the middle of the losing fight/You’re here in the middle of the deep regret/Here when the healing hasn’t happened yet/He is in the middle of the desert place/Here in the middle when I cannot see Your face/Here in the middle with Your outstretched arms/You can see my pain and it breaks Your heart”. Ellie began writing ‘He Will’ when she got sick in the middle of a radio tour. She was meditating on Isaiah 61. The song places full confidence in God: “Whether I’m in want or plenty/Whether I’m in health or ill/Our God promises His children/He will, He will/He’ll bind up the brokenhearted/Oh He will (2X)/He’ll set captives free from darkness/Oh He will (2X)/He’ll breathe hope into the hopeless/And help a restless soul be still”. The beautiful title track, ‘Red Sea Road’, is one of two songs written by Ellie, Christa Wells, and Nicole Witt. It was written “for several close friends who suffered tragic losses in their families, yet clung to hope in Christ in the midst of it”. This adult contemporary ballad includes these beautiful words: “God knows we ache when He asks us to go on/How do we go on?/We will sing to our souls/We won’t bury our hope/Where He leads us to go/There’s a red sea road/When we can’t see the way/He will part the waves/And we’ll never walk alone/Down a red sea road”.
‘You are Loved’ is a light pop song of encouragement: “You are loved, oh, not because of what you’ve done, no/Even when your heart has run the other way/Nothing’s gonna change His love/And you are wanted, not because you are perfect/I know that you don’t think you’re worth that kind of grace/But look into His face/You’ll know that Jesus, He chose you/He sees you/He knows you, ohhhh/You’re covered, forever/Beloved Daughter”. ‘Fighting Words’ is one of three songs solely written by Ellie. This one is a catchy modern folk number of determination: “I will fight the lies with the truth, ohh/Keep my eyes fixed on You/I will sing the truth into the dark/I will use my fighting words/My debt is paid, I’ve been set free/And You gave Your life up to rescue me”.
‘I Will Never Be the Same’ is one of two songs credited to The Nashville Nine. Ben Shive plays B3 and keys and a choir is used to good effect. This song speaks of Christ’s transforming power: “When You rolled the stone away/When You walked out of the grave/You were standing in the light of day/And everything changed/You said ‘Do not be afraid’/You were scarred to heal the pain/You defeated death and shame/And everything’s changed, everything’s changed/And when I mess it up/You say Your love’s enough/You say You’ll never leave or forsake me”. Jillian Edwards sings backing vocals on ‘Wonderfully Made’, a ballad about self-esteem: “I’m wonderfully made/Help me believe it/Help me to see me/Just like You see me/Just like You made me/I’m wonderfully made”.
Next up is ‘We’ve Got This Hope’, a tender song of positivity on which Nathan Dugger plays pedal steel and bass: “We’ve got this hope/We’ve got a future/We’ve got the power of the resurrection living within/We’ve got this hope/We’ve got a promise/That we are held up and protected in the palm of His hand/And even when our hearts are breaking/Even when our souls are shaken/Ohhh, we’ve got this hope”. ‘You Love Me Best’ reflects on how God’s love for her exceeds that of her mother, father, and spouse: “And there may come a day/When all other loves have gone away, oooh/When darkness hems me in/You’ll be right where You have always been/Closer than the heart within my chest/Because You love me best”.
‘God of All Comfort’ doesn’t even hit the two minute mark. Here are the complete lyrics: “No one’s too far/No one’s too broken/God says His heart is full of compassion/Everlasting arms hold us together/When we’re falling apart/He is the God of all comfort/God of all comfort”. ‘Rescue’ is a modern worship song offering these words of testimony: “It’s like I fell into a hole/Too deep to climb out/And I looked up to the sky/And saw You reaching down/Reaching down/You are the rescue/You are the reckoning/From all the things I’ve done and have been done to me/You are revival/You’re my recovery/I know that You’re the answer for what’s missing/Because You love me”.
‘Living Water’ is one of 2 songs on the project penned by Ellie and Ben Bannister. Nicole Witt sings backing vocals and the chorus serves as a prayer: “Spirit fill us with Living Water/We know Your well will not run dry/So come revive us, come wash over/In Your presence we’ll find our life”. The album closes with ‘Man of Sorrows’, a co-write with Ellie’s husband Drew Holcomb. The song drags but has a meaningful chorus: “Man of sorrows/What a name/Bore our suffering/Bore all of our pain/Man of sorrows/Broken sinners to reclaim/Overcame the darkness/And walked out of the grave”. Isaiah 53 is, of course, a reference point for the song.
RED SEA ROAD is mostly an adult contemporary record but blends in elements of light pop, modern worship, and folk. The slower songs outweigh the faster ones by far. Ellie has a wonderful voice! The main message of this record is that God is with us even in the hard times. He shows us love and compassion. This record makes it clear just how strong God’s love for us is. Our worth comes from us being God’s creation and not from our performance in life. On the record Ellie admits our need to be rescued and to experience revival. The resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us life, hope, and power. Mellow and contemplative for the most part, RED SEA ROAD will resonate with fans of Cheri Keaggy and Kari Jobe. I’m rating it 95%. For more info visit: www.ellieholcomb.com.